After 12 years as a loyal member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tomas Kaberle could’ve been excused for taking his time in settling in with the Bruins.
Not only did Kaberle get traded from the only team he ever knew to Boston last Friday, but since then he hasn’t had a practice with his new club and his morning skate Tuesday in Calgary was his first for the Bruins.
Amazingly, however, in a day and age when athletes seemingly are always grasping for excuses, Kaberle has quietly settled into his role with the Bruins as though he’s been in black and gold half his life.
With a solid showing in nearly 23 minutes of ice time in the 3-1 win over the Flames last night, following up his strong 19:34 performance in his Bruins in Ottawa last Friday, Kaberle has proven he’s as adept at transitioning to a new situation as he is at transitioning the puck from his team’s own end across a blue line or two.
That he’s been able to establish his presence in Boston’s lineup so quickly without hurting the club or his own reputation might be a sign of things to come. It has been a while since Kaberle has played in a stretch run with meaning, and seven years since he skated in the playoffs. Sportsnet.ca columnist Mark Spector sees Kaberle as a perfect fit for the Bruins — even comparing power-play pairing with Zdeno Chara to that of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer in their Anaheim days — but also wonders how he’ll reacting to being cast as the last piece of Boston’s championship puzzle.
The pressure now falls squarely on to Kaberle’s shoulders to produce what is expected of a team that gave up quite a largesse to acquire him — particularly considering the fact Kaberle will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Bruins are making a run here, and they’re counting heavily on Kaberle to deliver if that run is going to last four rounds.
It was easy, much of the time, to play for a team of which little was expected in Toronto, but that all changes now for Kaberle now that he is outside his comfort zone.
In Boston, it just might be Stanley Cup or bust. As in, bring home Big Stanley, or the trade wasn’t worth it.
Well, it’s surely Stanley Cup or bust, but that doesn’t have to be for this year. The window to win around a core featuring Chara, Tim Thomas and others should be open for another season or two beyond this one. If Kaberle re-signs, there should be a couple runs left in Boston.
As for making the move from a hapless Leafs team to the contending Bruins, I’d argue that there’s always pressure — comparable to what a player encounters in the postseason — to produce and succeed when you’re in a Toronto sweater, at least for half a season. And if his recent ability to overcome adversity is any indication, Kaberle should be the least of the Bruins’ problems over the course of the next three months or so.