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Will ex-Leaf stalwart Kaberle be a healthy scratch from now on?

The Bruins escaped a grueling 7-game series with their lives—barely.  Some felt Montreal had an edge going in because of their superior overall skating ability.  But one thing was certain:  hockey analysts assumed the Bruins would physically be able to manhandle the Habs.

But when all was said and done, it was a very even series, and quite obviously Montreal could just as easily have won, despite Boston’s supposed edge in toughness.

Now the Flyers await.  They can skate and they are tough, much “tougher” in the conventional sense than the Canadiens (though Montreal sure didn’t back down against the Bruins…)

So, from a Leaf perspective, and as someone who has written fairly often about Tomas Kaberle over the past couple of seasons as the Leafs—and he—waffled back and forth between trade and no trade, we now have a question: Will Kaberle even play against the Flyers?

We all remember that Kabby had some tough moments through the years against the Flyers in the playoffs—a semi-regular playoff partner in the Quinn years when Kabby when still a young guy.  Toronto played some inspired hockey at times in the playoffs against Philly, even when they lost  in 2003 and 2004, and Kaberle was often good.  But the Leafs couldn’t close the deal either of those years.  And that was the last time Kaberle played in the spring.

More relevant now is that Kabby is much older (albeit, in theory, more experienced) than he was when he last performed in the playoffs.  And yet his play and production against Montreal, seemingly a team he could excel against, was at best fair.

As the series went on he played third-pair minutes, but more importantly, often looked  more like a nervous rookie than a composed, smart defenseman. 

The Bruins noticed.  By Game 7, he played a grand total of 12 minutes of ice time before the game went into overtime.  In OT, there was one occasion when three Bruins were behind their own net, and no one was in front to cover a Hab forward in case the puck came out.

It was Kaberle who joined the scramble behind the net unnecessarily and left Thomas all alone.

There were other times in the series that he just looked out of sorts, ineffective.

His critics will suggest, perhaps fairly, that he was looking that way with the Leafs for some time, so what he showed with the Bruins was no surprise.

I’ve often wondered over the past few seasons if the constant trade speculation (and it wasn’t speculation, really—the team wanted him gone and everyone knew it) had simply worn him down and that was why he wasn’t the old, if flawed, Kaberle.

But his time with the Bruins has been so…well, under-whelming and the climax was Game 7 in Boston.  The Bruins won but it would be difficult to say, other than a good pass here and there in the series, that Tomas had much to do with it.

Veteran Shane Hnidy, a less sklled but grittier d-man is surely a guy who could play against the rough and tumble Flyers.  But he has played precious little this season with the Bruins. 

If he joins the line-up, who sits?  Not Chara or Seidenberg, Ferrence or Boychuk.  Adam McQuaid was plus 30 during the regular season.

That would leave Kaberle.

It may seem risky to sit him, but I wonder if Julien and Chiarelli will be pondering if Kaberle will fit in a series against the Flyers.

We’ll see.


1 comment:

  1. All I can picture is Chiarelli in his office gnashing his teeth as he watches video of Colborne.