Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: Kalman on Game 1, Kaberle Struggles, Seguin’s Playoff Debut (and ‘Stache Power?)

Throughout the Eastern Conference Final, Matt Kalman of TheBruinsBlog.net and I will be providing some insight from our respective sides with reaction to each game result and a look to what’s ahead via a series of Q&As.

In our latest session, Matt responds to my queries on the disappointing game one result for Boston, Tomas Kaberle’s struggles, Tyler Seguin’s playoff debut and even the power of Rene Rancourt’s mustache!

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JJ: So, I wrote this morning about how, now, nothing that the Bolts accomplish from this point forward should be considered a surprise. I should add to that, here, that the dominance they showed last night was definitely surprising to me. I hate to say it, and I don’t know why, but Boston just didn’t look ready to me. Tim Thomas was their best player last night and, though he was his spectacular self at times, even he wasn’t all that great, as a whole. With that awe-inspiring lead-in out of the way, how’s this for a follow-up question: What the hell happened last night, from a Bruins perspective?

MK: What happened was another lame start to a series by the Bruins who have made a habit of doing this over the years, including in the first round against Montreal and in the Carolina series in 2009. For whatever reason, when the Bruins have too much time to prepare for an opponent, they fall flat on their collective faces. But let’s face it, one question mark about this team from Day One has been the ability to move the puck out of its own end. Well, there’s Mr. Puck Mover himself, Tomas Kaberle, moving the puck right into his own net. And Dennis Seidenberg compounds a giveaway by losing his stick and then making a Landon Donovan (is that a strong soccer reference? I have no idea) to Sean Bergenheim for a Lightning goal.

But also (and this was the main story I wrote last night out of something like 1,000 blog posts that took me until 2 a.m. to write) Patrice Bergeron’s absence is even larger than I or many predicted it would be. I knew Chris Kelly wouldn’t be able to duplicate Bergeron’s offensive upside or faceoff prowess. I didn’t realize that head coach Claude Julien wasn’t going to trust the Rich Peverley line to take any meaningful defensive shifts, which would put the Gregory Campbell line Boston’s fourth line on the ice for a number of important shifts. Now those shifts didn’t hurt the Bruins, but when they’re spending so much time out there, there’s less of a chance of Boston scoring, especially when Bergeron’s absence makes his old line into a checking line and the first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton is extending its break between series to eight days and then more.

The Lightning did a great job of cutting off the head – the Krejci line – to kill the snake.

JJ: One player who stuck out to me as having some clear struggles last night was Kaberle, and I know that isn’t going to come as any big shock to you. It wasn’t just the awful turnover that led to Teddy Purcell’s goal that stretched the Lightning lead to 3-0. In my opinion, Kaberle looked lost, for the most part. As I understand it, that’s nothing new since his arrival in Boston. What is it that hasn’t worked for him since becoming a Bruin? As a guy that has contributed so effectively to power play units in the past, I’m sure he’s looked at as a scapegoat for the putrid numbers the Bs have managed with the extra man in the playoffs so far, no?

MK: He’s either the scapegoat, the goat or the goat’s rear end, depending on who you ask. I’m more inclined to go with the latter, but you know that I’m just a curmudgeon. Honestly, the power play is awful from player one through player 10 and a lot of the criticism that gets heaped on Kaberle for the man-advantage struggles isn’t fair. He moves the puck. Every time. He came to town billed as a guy afraid to shoot and he’s lived up to that. If you hire Gilbert Gottfried to be the voice of your advertising mascot, you can’t expect him to not tell tasteless jokes. Oh wait. But you get the point.

He’s not a shooter. And he’s obviously pressing. That one shot went so wide, I was yelling for him to at least pretend his stick was broken. To me, Julien has to take this guy off the power play to relieve Kaberle’s stress and also say to the rest of the team, he’s not the savior; go out and do it yourself.

Any criticism of Kaberle for his poor defensive play, as opposed to that of the power play, is warranted. He allegedly took a while to learn the Bruins system and positioning, but there’s been little improvement in that area. We saw even in the Philadelphia series against a Flyers forward corps that was banged up, the Bruins were limiting his minutes and not using Kaberle to protect a small lead. What Julien says about Kaberle’s defensive play is completely contradicted by the blueliner’s minutes.

Barring a major turnaround, this will be the trade general manager Peter Chiarelli will have at the top of his fail list for years to come.

JJ: It’s hard to look at positives after a loss like that but Tyler Seguin stepped up (and around Mike Lundin, that’s for sure) last night in his first playoff action. Do you see him remaining in the lineup for game two, whether Patrice Bergeron returns or not? And why, with such a struggling power play unit, did Seguin not even get a second of PP time last night?

MK: Uh oh, are you trying to convert me into a Seguinista? I hope not. Listen, Seguin scored a pretty goal and even threw a hard check (what does this all say about Lundin, by the way?) but he was also on the ice for two goals against and had his share of left and right turns away from potential checks and battles. The kid has NHL skills, but the rest of his game hasn’t caught up to them. There’s plenty of time for that in terms of years, but not in terms of playoff games.

There is one way I see him staying in and that’s if the Bruins get in a deep hole this series and Julien is desperate for offense. The coach has sat out Shawn Thornton for playoff games in the past when reaching for scoring, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see that again. Michael Ryder also played his way out of the lineup a little bit in March and has been inconsistent since a solid first round. I would say odds are 3-1 Seguin sits when Bergeron comes back depending when that is but I wouldn’t say he becomes a permanent press box fixture.

As for the power play, maybe you’re the Seguinista in this collaboration. Today, Julien explained that he didn’t want to give the kid too much responsibility out of the gate in the playoffs and he’ll be considered for PP time going forward. I mean, at this point it doesn’t matter who’s out there. The Bruins need to execute and win some battles. I’m not sure Seguin helps them in either area, but there’s a lot of things I’d do different with the PP that I can’t get into here because it’s only a best-of-seven collaboration.

JJ: BONUS QUESTION: Rene Rancourt has one hell of a mustache, in a Robert Goulet sort of way… My father once rocked one of similar merit. Am I correct in assuming that Pops should, without question, bring that bad boy back? (And what is the key to that impressive Rancourt fist pump?)

MK: When you compare Rene to the villain from Naked Gun 2, you only add to his legend. I think you just might be jealous because you weren’t aware of him in time to sing at your wedding. [JJ Note: I’ve long been aware of the almighty Mr. Rancourt, even prior to my wedding in 2006. The thing of it is, when you have the one and only Robbie Hart and his golden pipes at your disposal, why would you ever go to another for wedding singer glory?] Nonetheless, if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that moustaches hold magical hockey powers. And Rene has that type of power. As for the fist pump, it’s inspired by Randy Burridge (how cool is that?) And the rest of his post-song routine? Well, I’ll give you a copy of my book – shameless plug – 100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die when I hit Tampa this week and you can read all about the legend of Rene Rancourt.

[JJ Note 2: I’d better get the promised copy of said book, for which I promise a full review and separate reactionary piece on Rancourt (and his ‘stache) alone!]

***

As this posts, I’ll be answering Matt’s latest questions to post at The Bruins Blog either later tonight or tomorrow morning. Look for a link to that as it is made available.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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