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BOSTON -- When the Boston Bruins acquired Tomas Kaberle in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 18, the veteran defenseman was supposed to be a game-changer, the last piece the Bruins needed to solidify their Stanley Cup hopes.
Saturday's Game 5 of Boston's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens was only Kaberle's seventh career playoff game. Prior to the series, the 33-year-old blueliner had not played in a postseason contest in six years.
|After missing the playoffs the past six seasons, Tomas Kaberle admits he was a bit nervous at the start of the postseason with the Bruins.|
When the Bruins traded prospect Joe Colborne, along with a first-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012, in exchange for Kaberle, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli talked about how long the organization has wanted him in a black-and-gold sweater.
Last week, however, Chiarelli sounded a bit disappointed in the world-class defenseman's performance, especially in this series.
"Has he been a disappointment? He hasn't played up to the level that we expected," Chiarelli told 98.5 The Sports Hub last week. "There have been parts of his game where he hasn't played in the playoffs for a while and some of those [bad] habits have stuck with him. We expected better."
Kaberle addressed those comments Sunday morning at TD Garden and admitted he could be better. He also said he took those comments from Chiarelli as a challenge and has tried to channel them in a positive manner.
"I always put a lot of pressure on myself," Kaberle said, "and hopefully I can prove why I am here. I would like to help out in every little thing I can do on the ice. Obviously I'm one of the guys on the [power play] and it would be nice to get something going there.
"The first couple of games I could have been better. The last few games I felt a lot better and I'm feeling better confidence-wise, so I'll take it from there."
Kaberle waived a no-trade clause to come to Boston and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Just prior to the deal, Chiarelli called Kaberle's agent, Rick Curran, for reassurance that a future discussion could take place regarding a contract extension.
The sides agreed, but talks were tabled until the offseason. At the time, Chiarelli said he was confident the Bruins would be able to lock up Kaberle for the long term. Since that point, there has been no communication between the sides.
When asked if Chiarelli's recent comments about his client would have a negative effect on contract talks, Curran said it would not be an issue.
"No. I'm not concerned," Curran told ESPNBoston.com.
Given his playoff drought, Kaberle admitted he was a bit nervous the first couple of games against the Canadiens, but he believes he's settling down.
"I feel better and better every game," he said. "Obviously the first couple of games I was nervous because it's been a while, six years is a long time. It's great. I'm happy to be here and I'm enjoying it."
During his 24 regular-season games with the Bruins, Kaberle posted one goal and eight assists. Against the Canadiens in this series, he has two assists. Despite not playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for a while, he said his transition from the regular season to the playoffs has been OK.
"It's not a big difference, you just have to focus on every shift," he said. "Every little play could make a big difference. Everybody knows that in this dressing room and we just have to finish [Montreal]."
He's been paired with Adam McQuaid of late and it seems to be working. McQuaid is more of a stay-at-home defenseman, and Kaberle is the opposite with his puck-moving skills and ability to jump up into the play.
"I think he's handling himself great," fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "I think he's playing solid hockey. I don't know how he feels, but most of us are pretty happy."
The reason Kaberle wanted to come to Boston was for a chance to win the Stanley Cup sooner rather than later.
"That's what everybody plays for," Kaberle said. "You've got the regular season and you want to play in the playoffs and win the Cup. Every hockey player dreams about it and it's nice to finally be [in the playoffs] after six years of missing it."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.