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On Friday night, the Boston Bruins are facing Game 7 of a series they should have wrapped up at least on Wednesday, and probably a few days before that. There has, as you'd imagine, been a lot of finger-pointing.
Most, if not all of the blame, has fallen squarely on the shoulders of that jerk Tomas Kaberle who everyone hates.
It's easy to see why. He was brought in at a premium price — a first-round pick, a conditional second-round pick, a former first-rounder Joe Colborne, who was last seen lighting up the AHL for the Leafs' farm team — and he was brought in almost exclusively, Bruins fans were told, to fix the mediocre power play.
He thoroughly failed to do so.
When Boston brought him in, the power play was 14th in the league at 18.1 percent. It finished the year 20th at 16.1 percent. And now in the postseason, the Bruins' power play is running at a putrid 8.2 percent efficiency with five goals in 17 games. So yes, by that measure, Kaberle has been a supreme disappointment.
(But there's good news in all this too: The conditional pick Boston gives up only kicks in if it makes the Stanley Cup Finals, or if Kaberle re-signs there in the offseason. If the Bruins don't do one, they probably don't do the other. So he's at least helping out in that regard, right? Right?)
Of course, how much of that, really, is on him?
He's never been one to shoot the puck. Nor, it seems, has anyone else on the Bruins power play, which has just 67 shots on 61 man-up opportunities in this postseason. But maybe he's supposed to generate shots.
That's fair, right? OK, well, even when they do put the puck on net, it takes them an average of 13.4 shots (roughly 12.2 power plays' worth) to score. But maybe Kaberle is now supposed to improve his team's shooting percentage as well, which also doesn't take into account shots attempted that went wide or were blocked.
Plus, when he makes mistakes, they've been glaring. And that very conveniently ignores the fact that he hasn't made many at all. Despite the Bruins bleeding goals in this conference finals gong show against the Lightning, and the first-round slugfest with Montreal in which it seemed no goals would go unscored, Kaberle has only been on the ice for just seven goals in 17 games.
Part of that, one supposes, is likely a function of Claude Julien buying the anti-Kaberle hype in Boston. You can only have so many days in which the Boston media circles around his stall in the dressing room with torches and pitchforks before you start thinking maybe they're right. After all, the power play has looked pretty bad, so let's just ignore the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of Boston's top power-play unit and line of Lucic-Krejci-Horton and conclude that this "Kabuhlay" guy has been "wicked hahrrible" since they traded for him.
Reality, though, is quite a bit different. Kaberle certainly has not helped his team, but he's been far from the biggest problem. Johnny Boychuk is a name that's been called out once or twice — never approaching the level of Kaberle's easiest day of facing the firing squad — despite playing fall-down terrible hockey for basically the entire conference finals.
Boychuk has been on the ice for 10 — TEN! — goals in six games against the Lightning, including all five on Wednesday (mostly as a result of Guy Boucher's line matching). You wouldn't think it would be possible to be on the ice for that many, but here we are. Only Dennis Seidenberg, who leads the league in ice time in the postseason, has been on scored on more often among the Bruins, but that's because he plays 28:24 a game against top competition.
But really, it's a problem with the whole team. The Bruins went from being the best defensive team in hockey to giving up 21 goals in their last six games. Their penalty kill is running at just 77.8 percent. Tim Thomas has seen his goals-against average rise so quickly he's risking a case of the bends. And the team has no answers for any of these problems.
They've played extremely un-Bruins hockey. You can call it a function of the 1-3-1, but the team also seems to have risen above the constraints the defensive system puts on most teams to score 20 goals in the series.
And now they have one game to figure it all out before they run into a well-rested, swaggering titan of hockey efficiency.
If they're lucky.
Who cares who Canada's team is?
As we saw with Calgary and Edmonton a few years ago, all it takes for a whole nation to get behind a team they normally can't stand is a little bit of improbable playoff success.
This hasn't been the case with the Vancouver Canucks, whose playoff success has been very much probable and, perhaps more importantly, decisive. This is an excellent team that some thought would be a Stanley Cup winner back before the season even started. As such, most Canadians, who poured their hearts into every win and loss for all other north-of-the-border teams once theirs had been bounced, have been at least tepid or at worst downright loathsome of Vancouver's piles of dominant wins.
And why? Canada gets itself wrapped up in national pride over hockey very easily. Somehow, as with a team returning to Winnipeg, Stanley Cup success and having more teams is a thing that is their near-Constitutional rights as Canadian citizens.
But it seems that if the best Canada can do in the 18 years since Montreal won is this Canuck team, that's a right most would waive. That might be something like progress.
It's all very stupid, rooting for a team based on the country in which they're located. No one in New Jersey cares when the Red Wings win. No one in Dallas cares when the Blackhawks win. So why should anyone in Montreal care if Calgary or Edmonton or Ottawa or Vancouver goes to a Cup final?
Hopefully the Canucks — a team named after citizens of Canada, by the way — do win it all. That way, we all get the very good fortune of not having to hear about it any more.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on Bergenheim only getting six minutes in Game 5 before getting hurt: "whats wrong with playing 6 minutes? That would be a great night for this kid."
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- Tomas Kaberle
- Boston Bruins