|Steven Kampfer ‘definitely’ ready if needed by Bruins||05.17.11 at 1:15 pm ET|
As Tomas Kaberle continues to struggle, the Bruins could be getting closer to having a viable option (and one who has fared well against the Lightning) to threaten his ice time.
Defenseman Steven Kampfer, who suffered a knee injury late in the regular season while getting some playing time in Providence, told WEEI.com Tuesday that he is “definitely” ready to return to the lineup if need be. Kampfer, 22, has spent extra time out on the ice as he works to get his back into tip-top shape.
“I feel ready to go,” Kampfer said Tuesday. “It’s something that I talked about with the trainers the other day. If something happens, I definitely feel ready to go. It’s those extra couple skates that are definitely going to help.”
In the three games in which the B’s have had to go without one of their six regulars this postseason — Game 2 of the conference quarterfinals for Zdeno Chara and Games 3 and 4 of the semifinals for Adam McQuaid — Shane Hnidy has played, but has done so sparingly.
Coach Claude Julien has said multiple times recently that Kampfer is healthy, but that his conditioning as he returns to skating remains what separates him from being an option if needed. He barely strayed from that line Tuesday, saying Kampfer is “still working on his conditioning, but certainly getting close.”
Kampfer admitted that his conditioning remains a process, but that the extra work he’s put in has gotten to a point where he’d be comfortable returning to the lineup.
“When you don’t skate for a month, it definitely takes a while to get your conditioning back,” Kampfer said. “You can ride the bike, you can do things like that, but skating condition is different than a bike and everything like that. We’ve been doing a little extra work here and there, and a couple more extra skating sessions is definitely going to help.”
While it would seemingly take an injury for Kampfer to make his postseason debut, the idea of him putting a little pressure on Kaberle should be considered out of the question. Kaberle was awful in Game 1, and throughout the playoffs has been a disappointment for the Bruins. A good puck-moving defenseman is an asset against a team like the Lightning, but the only notable moving of a puck by Kaberle in Game 1 came on his turnover behind his own net to lead to a goal, and his confusing slap shot into the corner on the power play in the second period.
If Kaberle keeps putting up stinkers for 15-plus minutes a night, maybe it would be worth it to give the kid a chance. Call it the defensive version of the Tyler Seguin/Michael Ryder lineup spot argument, but Kampfer has performed at his best against Tampa, scoring two of his five goals this season against the Lightning. His speed and passing ability matches up well against a team that shows different looks in the neutral zone as well.
“It definitely fits my style when you play a team that I guess plays a 1-3-1,” Kampfer said of Guy Boucher‘s neutral zone forecheck. “You move your feet and you can skate through it, but that’s something our whole team can do. Everyone here is quick and everyone can make passes. It’s something that we’ve got to [do] tonight and the rest of the series.”
Though Kampfer had goals against the Lightning on Dec. 28 (his first career tally) and March 3, he said he doesn’t look at the Tampa matchup and think of how he can change the series. As he waits for his time, he has confidence in the guys out there.
“Anyone can make a difference in this series,” he said. “It’s just how you play and how you take the game plan to them. It’s something that we talked about this morning, is how our team’s going to play. We have our system that we’re going to stick to. I think everyone has had success against this team, and I think everyone here knows how to play.”
When Kampfer actually returns to game action for the Bruins remains unknown. If it’s this series, next series or next season, he’ll be ready to continue working off a rookie campaign that had its ups (the Tampa games, nine games of 20 minutes or more in 38 contests) and the downs (the disastrous ending to the March 17 game in which a misplay and a bad penalty cost the team the game and cost him his spot in the lineup) of his rookie campaign.
If Kaberle continues to struggle though, maybe it’s worth rolling the dice. Yes, Kaberle was a costly acquisition, but the Bruin showed in Games 3 and 4 of the second round that they can win without putting him out there. It’s crazy to think, but it’s not out of the question. A combination of more duds from Kaberle and a ready-to-go Kampfer could put a bit more pressure on the 33-year-old, if it isn’t there already.
|Bruins-Lightning Game 2 preview||at 2:07 am ET|
Twos are wild as the Bruins take on the Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. The B’s are looking to knot the series at one game apiece before it moves to Tampa for Games 3 and 4, and they’ll need to correct some costly mistakes that doomed them in Game 1.
With the number two in mind, here’s a preview of the contest:
Two things the Bruins need to do:
- Go back to winning 5-on-5. The excuse for the Bruins amidst their power play’s horrid 2-for-41 playoff showing is that they were playing dominant 5-on-5 hockey to make up for it. It was an argument that was clearly backed up by their ability to advance through two rounds, but the B’s gave Game 1 away with both teams at even strength, letting the Lightning score three goals – two of which were unassisted – in a matter of 1:25. The Lightning did score a power play goal in the third period, but it was the ugly first period that lost the Bruins the game.
The Bruins have clearly been the best 5-on-5 team throughout the playoffs. Their 33 goals for lead all remaining teams, while the 16 goals they have allowed is the lowest total among the last four teams. They just cam’t let those numbers take hit like they did Saturday, because for a team whose power play is a non-factor, they have to make sure they do all the damage they can at even strength.
- Know which Tomas Kaberle shows up, and adjust accordingly. Yes, this is coming from the same person who noted Kaberle’s skills could help them in this series, and while they still can, the 33-year-old proved to be nothing but a liability (again) in Game 1. The Bruins limited his minutes significantly (13:20 and 13:15, respectively; the his lowest totals of the last five seasons) in Gmaes 3 and 4 of the Philadelphia series and were still able to win, so 17:29 for a guy who committed as bad a turnover as one could in Game 1 Saturday was excessive. Putting Kaberle on a tighter leash means more minutes for other guys, but they were able to pull it off twice last series. If Kaberle is going to cost them, he can’t be out there as much.
Two crazy numbers:
- Steven Stamkos led the Lightning with 297 shots on goal in the regular season, yet Game 1 was the second game this postseason in which he failed to put a puck on net. The Lightning went 4-3-0 in the regular season when Stamkos didn’t register a shot on goal, while they lost the other playoff game in which he put up a goose egg.
The playoff leader in shots on goal remains James van Riemsdyk, and it will likely be at least a couple games before he is surpassed. With 70 through two rounds, he leads the field by nine shots.
- Mark Recchi’s 20:02 of ice time made Saturday the first time in a while that he led Bruins forwards in time on ice. He did not do so at all during the regular season, and you would have to go back to Jan. 19, 2010 to find the last time he did. He led B’s forwards in ice time on three occasions that season, including the first time Winter Classic.
Two key players:
- Patrice Bergeron: Guy Boucher keeps saying he’s expecting the concussed center to be in the Bruins’ lineup Tuesday, and if the Lightning coach is proven right, the Bruins will win the “best media deception” award. From what we’ve seen, he’s skated only three times and he hasn’t taken contact. Unless he’s doing something we’re not seeing, it’s hard to imagine the B’s rushing him back.
- Sean Bergenheim: Nobody planned on having to account for Bergenheim in the playoffs, but so far, nobody has been able to stop him. After scoring just 14 regular-season goals, the third-line winger added to his league leading playoff total Saturday with his eighth goal of the postseason.
|Claude Julien: ‘No doubt’ Tomas Kaberle is pressing||05.15.11 at 2:10 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle has taken a beating from the media — this space included — since he’s come to Boston. He hasn’t been as advertised, he’s made costly turnovers and as positive and upbeat a guy as he is, that can come off as a lack of accountability when things are going wrong.
Unfortunately for Kaberle and the Bruins, Game 1 of the conference finals vs. the Lightning didn’t feature the step in the right direction many are still waiting for him to take. Kaberle gave the puck away behind his own net to give Teddy Purcell an easy unassisted goal in the first period, and he looked like a combination of Fulton Reed and Uncle Rico with some of his shots on the power play. It hasn’t been easy for Kaberle since coming over in Feb. 18, and it may be weighing on the veteran defenseman.
“There is no doubt he is pressing a little bit,” Claude Julien said Sunday at TD Garden. “I would say that because he knows what is expected of him and he knows what is being said about him. He knows all that stuff, at one point you hope that he is capable of focusing on just doing the job. We have confidence in him and we are going to work with him for him to get better, because we are going to need him to play at his best if we plan on moving on here and winning some hockey games.”
Kaberle has generally contented throughout his struggles that he needs to leave any negative moments in the past, but as they continue to pile up, it seems they could be sticking with him when he’s out on the ice. A player of Kaberle’s caliber isn’t used to being a weak link, and there’s still time for him to be a strength on the Bruins. It will need to come sooner rather than later, and once the defenseman can clear his head, the B’s could be in the clear with what’s looking like an uglier trade with each passing day.
|Video: Bruins react to game one loss to Lightning||at 12:43 am ET|
|Claude Julien: Tomas Kaberle will ‘have to be even bigger’||05.11.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle has been one of the most scrutinized Bruins since he arrived in Boston in mid-February, and for good reason. He wasn’t contributing as much on offense and the power play as he was expected to, and he was making some costly mistakes in his own zone.
Claude Julien said he thought Kaberle played better in the Bruins’ most recent series against the Flyers, though. In fact, the 12-year veteran finished the series with a plus-4 rating.
“I know at one point we had expected a little more out of him, and we were clear with that,” Julien said. “I think since that time, he’s certainly been a pretty good player for us these last few games against Philly. We’ve seen him move the puck extremely well and I think he’s been a better player. … We’ve liked the way he’s handled the puck and handled the pressure of the forecheck and getting the attack going.”
Julien said Kaberle will have to step up even more in the Eastern Conference finals against the Lightning because of their 1-3-1 scheme that clogs up the neutral zone (explained here).
“I think in this series coming up, he’s going to have to be even bigger for us because of the way they play the game,” Julien said. “We’re going to need some really good puck movement from the back end, so he’s going to be a key element to our success.”
|As Bruins power play struggles, Tomas Kaberle still trying to ‘prove why I’m here’||04.24.11 at 1:20 pm ET|
Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the answer for Boston’s power play. So far, there’s just been more questions in what has been an ugly tryout for a new contract.
Seemingly destined to don the black and gold eventually, the Bruins finally acquired the heavily sought-after free agent-to-be 10 days prior to the trade deadline. Since then, the Bruins’ power play has been almost unfathomably unproductive. With just seven goals in 80 opportunities, the unit has been clicking just eight percent of the time. Even general manager Peter Chiarelli said recently that the team expected more out of the defenseman when they sent a first-round pick and highly touted prospect Joe Colborne to Toronto in exchange for the veteran defenseman. Chiarelli isn’t the only one hoping Kaberle can pick it up.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself,” Kaberle said Sunday at TD Garden. “Hopefully I can prove why I’m here. I would like to help with every little thing I can do on the ice. Obviously, I am one of the guys on the PP, and it would be nice to be something going there.”
Kaberle had nine points for the Bruins in his 24 regular season contests since being acquired, but as the spotlight grew brighter with the arrival of the playoffs, the 33-year-old had an ugly showing. He reversed a puck too hard in the Bruins’ zone, making for an easy Scott Gomez pass to Brian Gionta to set up what would be the game-winning goal.
From there, things didn’t improve as much as they needed to. Kaberle had major struggles in Game 2, displaying an inability to keep the puck in the zone on routine plays, a suggestion that perhaps he may have been pressing. If a turnaround is to be made, perhaps the defenseman can build on the fact that things have at least been looking up statistically. He’s had an assist in each of the last two games, and with how bad things were in Games 1 and 2, it’s a starting point.
“I felt like the first couple of games I could have been better,” Kaberle admitted Sunday. “The last few games, I’ve felt a lot better, and I’m feeling better confidence-wise. I’ll take it from there.”
Right now, any signs of confidence from Kaberle should be a good thing, as his play — despite making the as-advertised passes — has not been a major game-changer for the B’s in the postseason. He still isn’t producing on the man advantage, and his now-infamous fakes on the power play aren’t fooling anybody. Fairly or unfairly, Chiarelli’s move to get Kaberle will be seen as a major steal by the Leafs unless the power play starts getting the results that have eluded them for too long. There’s no better way to do that than to get the power play going, but teammates won’t let all the responsibility fall on Kaberle.
“I’m sure he feels pressure just like all of us,” Dennis Seidenberg said Sunday. “It’s not just him that wants to do better. I think it’s everybody that wants to create and wants to get that advantage you’re supposed to get. Right now it’s just not working, and I’m sure he thinks as much as everybody else about it — what he can do, and what we should do improve it. I guess it’s a work in progress.”
A first-round pick and a former first-round center with as high a ceiling as Colborne’s is not something a team wants to give up for a player that can help the power play be a “work in progress.” That type of package is reserved for a star player, and that’s clearly what the Bruins thought they were getting. There’s still time for Kaberle to justify the move and prove that the trade for a puck-moving defenseman was more than an asset-moving blunder, but for now the waiting game continues.
|Michael Ryder proves Claude Julien right, plays hero in pivotal win over Canadiens||04.22.11 at 12:09 am ET|
MONTREAL — To say that Michael Ryder has been the whipping boy of Bruins fans is an understatement. The $4 million man was far from that for too long after the Bruins’ Feb. 9 win over the Canadiens. The free-agent-to-be totaled just two goals over his final 25 games, and was even a healthy scratch three times.
Since the playoffs began, fans and some media members have lobbied for Ryder to watch them from the press box in order to make room for Tyler Seguin in the lineup.
On Thursday, Ryder showed that Claude Julien’s decision to stick with him was the right one, ending his lengthy disappearing act with a pair of goals in Game 5 against the Canadiens, including the game-winner in overtime. Julien has coached Ryder everywhere from juniors to the AHL to Montreal to Boston, so it was only fitting that Ryder prove Julien right at Bell Centre.
“I’ve been with him for a while,” Ryder said of Julien. “Just for him to give me the ice time and give me the confidence, for me, it just gives me that extra boost to show people that I can still play and still got it.”
Ryder’s big night began when he tied the game at one in the second period, beating Habs netminder Carey Price with a wrist shot after taking a pass from Tomas Kaberle. From there, the weight was finally off the struggling winger’s shoulders.
“You always get a little frustrated when you don’t score and you don’t get that many opportunities, but it was definitely a confidence boost,” Ryder said. “Hopefully now our line keeps generating stuff, helping to do whatever we can to help this team.”
He would go on to assist Chris Kelly’s game-tying goal at 13:42 of the third period, which marked the third time in the game that the B’s came back to tie it up. They actually never led in the game until Ryder beat Price for the game-winner just 119 seconds into overtime.
“I’m happy for Rydes,” Shawn Thornton said of the winger. “A couple of guys talked about it before, he usually plays pretty well in this building,” Shawn Thornton said of the former Canadien. “I’m happy his hard work paid off. Maybe some people in Boston will lay off him now. He’s a good guy.”
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