TAMPA — No one in black and gold felt the heat more late in the season and during the first two rounds than Tomas Kaberle . But the Bruins and Claude Julien  believe the 33-year-old veteran blueliner has turned a corner – with his confidence.
The Bruins coach knows his players better than anyone and he could see that the defenseman obtained at the trade deadline to bolster a lagging power play was pressing and struggling.
Julien tried everything. He sat him more. He played him more. Finally, last week, Julien took some of the burden off his shoulders by talking to him and letting him know that he and the team still believe he will help the team at critical times and that there was no reason to be putting the struggles of the Bruins power play unit on his shoulders.
It was during Tuesday night’s 6-5 shootout win in Boston that Julien could really start to sense that Kaberle was heeding the message. Ironic that Julien would see Kaberle start to shine in a high-scoring game, of all things. On Thursday, during a more typical 2-0 shutout win, Julien could see the confidence growing in the veteran defenseman as he and Bruins’ D cleared lanes for Tim Thomas  to see and stop all 31 shots.
“I don’t know if it was our best but obviously, it was good enough to win a hockey game,” Kaberle said of the Bruins’ team D effort. “And Timmy behind us was playing pretty well and he saw a lot of shots and we spent a lot of time in their end. When we do that we have a good chance to win a hockey game.”
“I think he’s played really well in the last couple of games,” Julien said Friday. “And we had a conversation about maybe taking some pressure off his shoulders about everything that wasn’t going right about the power play. Fingers kept pointing at him.”
The reason fingers kept pointing in Kaberle’s direction was the fact that the Bruins started this series against the Lightning just 2-for-37. It got worse on Saturday when the Bruins were 0-for-4. The Bruins finally struck gold on Tuesday with two goals in six chances but returned to form on Thursday, going scoreless in three more chances, bringing the total to 4-for-50 for the playoffs.
But Julien stressed on Friday that those who watch the game closely should see that Kaberle is far more important than just his role on the power. play.
“He’s more than just that,” Julien said. “He’s a good puck mover. He can play a pretty good game when he’s on top of it. And we have confidence in him. And I told him that, that we know he can certainly help us.
I think he’s relaxed a little bit which has given him some confidence in his game. And I think the last two games he’s been a better player.
He’s passing. He’s more poised. He’s a little bit more aggressive. And he’s not sitting on his heels. And I think that’s made a big difference in his game. And we say it almost every day when we talk about players, it’s about confidence. That word “confidence” plays big. And whether he feels it from others or whether he plays with it, that makes a big difference in the players’ reaction.”