New pieces Kaberle and Kelly seemed to fit Bruins nicely
Some day, Joe Colborne may become a top-six NHL forward. Perhaps Toronto can turn the Bruins’ 2011 first-round pick into an impact player. And in the summer of 2012, it’s possible the Leafs will use the Bruins’ second-round pick to nab a solid future NHLer.
In years to come, the three chips Toronto acquired Friday may represent a significant bounty the Bruins had to cough up. But nothing is guaranteed for the Leafs, whose best seasons, in the hopes of general manager Brian Burke, are yet to come.
On the flip side, it is guaranteed that Tomas Kaberle immediately makes the Bruins a better team. And that’s a good thing, considering the future is now for the Bruins.
The warranties on Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara, the club’s two difference-makers, could be close to expiring. This could be as good as Thomas (26-8-6, 2.02 goals-against average, .938 save percentage, seven shutouts) will ever be. Chara is 33 and considers the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom his on-ice role model. But it’s possible there is little growth remaining in the captain’s game.
So general manager Peter Chiarelli is theorizing that this current window may be the best chance the Bruins have at a Stanley Cup. When Colborne and the two picks become NHLers, Thomas may be done with hockey.
Philadelphia is the Eastern Conference’s best and deepest club. Out West, Vancouver and Detroit — the Red Wings torched the Bruins in back-to-back games this month — are the standard-bearers. Before Chiarelli whacked Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart off his roster and glued on Kaberle, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly, the Bruins didn’t look like they had the depth to give any of those three teams a good, honest run.
But with Kaberle’s puck-retrieval and power-play skills, the Bruins have made themselves into a better team in the East. Pittsburgh, minus Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, is weakened. The Capitals have been shadows of their formerly explosive selves. Rookie GM Steve Yzerman and first-year coach Guy Boucher have revitalized the Lightning. But Tampa Bay has given up 179 goals, more than all but five teams in the league.
The Bruins have lived without a puck-moving defenseman after swapping Dennis Wideman to Florida last summer. Now, they finally have the skilled blue liner they’ve lacked. In just one game, Friday’s 4-2 win over Ottawa at Scotiabank Place, Kaberle made his teammates better.
On the power play, Kaberle assumed quarterback duties at the point. In turn, Chara drifted lower down the right side. Chara looked to shoot more. Several times, Chara hustled to the far post as a backdoor option. Mark Recchi, an ill fit at the point, was back down low on the first unit.
“[Kaberle] never really panics,’’ said Dennis Seidenberg. “It doesn’t really seem like he’s going fast. But he’s sucking guys into him, then getting the puck to the open guy.’’
In even-strength play, Kaberle was paired with Seidenberg. Because of how smoothly Kaberle retrieves pucks and gets them off his stick, Seidenberg found himself up the ice a step faster.
“He just passes the puck nicely,’’ Seidenberg said. “It’s always flat. It’s good to play with a guy that moves the puck that well.’’
Up front, Kelly made his Black-and-Gold debut against his old team. Before the game, Kelly remarked that the only time he’d been in the Scotiabank Place visitors’ room was during training camp. In the first period, as expected, Kelly found it challenging to go up against the only teammates he’d ever known.
But by Periods 2 and 3, Kelly looked more comfortable, using his speed and smarts as he centered Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin on the No. 3 line.
“I think he competed well,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “What I liked about him is that he understood how we played pretty quickly. He adjusted to that.’’
Today, Peverley is expected to join his teammates for practice at Ristuccia Arena. Peverley will make his Bruins debut Tuesday against Calgary.
With all the new hands on board, the Bruins will have one extra forward and one spare defenseman.
Against Ottawa Friday, Johnny Boychuk was the healthy scratch.
Both Kelly and Peverley can play center and wing, which will give Julien more flexibility and options when it comes to filling out his lineup.
But in the end, the newest Bruins are complementary pieces. This is still a club built around Thomas and Chara. The identity remains the same.
“I don’t think we brought in any players that swim against what we’re already doing,’’ said defenseman Andrew Ference.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.