Kaberle feels he has turned over new leaf
WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle joked that it had been so long since he was in the playoffs, he would have to go look at film to refresh his memory.
The last time he suited up for the postseason, in fact, was in 2004, when he played in 13 games for the Maple Leafs. In 77 career playoff games, Kaberle has 28 points, six of them goals. When the Bruins begin their best-of-seven first-round series against the Canadiens tonight at TD Garden, Kaberle will be an important factor in Boston’s success.
“Obviously, you play hockey to make it to the playoffs first and then hopefully all the way [to the Stanley Cup],’’ said Kaberle, who was dealt to the Bruins from Toronto Feb. 18. “That’s what everybody plays hockey for. This is a good chance and I think we have a really good team and we just have to prove it on the ice.’’
Although Kaberle faced the Bruins as an opponent for years, it took him a little time after the trade to understand the way the team plays.
“It was a totally different system than playing with the Leafs,’’ said Kaberle. “We had to get to know each other. I feel comfortable right now.’’
He’s also very familiar with the Canadiens, who were a thorn in the Maple Leafs’ side. Kaberle, who has 8 points in his last 14 games, scored his first goal as a Bruin March 24 against Montreal. He is hoping to parlay his knowledge of the opponent into offensive opportunities, particularly on the power play.
“Both teams know each other pretty well, playing six times,’’ he said. “We’ll just put 100 percent into it every time and obviously, if you get the [power play] going, it’s a boost for the team.
“We’ve moved the puck well enough to score some goals. Not every time it’s going to happen, but we have to keep pushing and get traffic and rebounds, and eventually goals are going to happen.’’
Joining the Bruins has meant new life to his game, and he has enjoyed getting ready for the second season.
“It’s been a while,’’ he said with a laugh. “Obviously, you want to play your best. That’s what you’re preparing for the whole season.
“It’s not going to be anything pretty out there, it’s going to be just basic hockey. Fast and grind hockey and go to the net. It could be 1-0 hockey games. It’s going to be a battle right from the first minute.’’
Strong outlook Despite 502 NHL games under his belt, tonight marks the first playoff game for Nathan Horton. Coach Claude Julien said he has high expectations for the 25-year-old forward. “Those power forwards are always pretty successful in the playoffs because it’s a grind, and you need guys that are big and strong and a guy like him who can shoot the puck and use his size to his advantage and make some space for himself,’’ said Julien. “He’s a physical player and we’ve talked about him having played with an edge for quite a while now. He’s gotten so much better in the second half in regards to his approach to the game and I have a really good feeling about him.’’ . . . The Bruins will spend the two days between Games 3 and 4 in Lake Placid, N.Y. “We felt we had a couple of days, and it’s a good area just to get some practice time,’’ said Julien. “There was no use for us staying longer than we had to. We have a job to do — we have to practice and stay focused — so we felt that was the best thing to do.’’ . . . Goalie Tim Thomas goes into tonight with a 6-1-1 record and 1.48 goals-against average in his last eight games, including shutouts in two of his last seven. Thomas’s .938 save percentage is the best for a season since the NHL began including it in the official statistics package in 1982-83. “I don’t think he was 100 percent healthy last year and it really didn’t help his play,’’ said Julien. “He got the surgery done over the course of the summer, and what you saw this year is what you saw two years ago when he won the Vezina. Again this year, the way he’s played, he’s certainly deserving of it. I don’t think anything’s changed for Tim.’’
Special attention One aspect of the Bruins’ game that will be crucial is discipline. “I think we all realize how important it is,’’ said Julien. “The team that we’re playing is pretty good on the power play. We have to stay out of the box as best we can here. When we are going to end up in the penalty box, our penalty kill is going to have to be really good for us. We expect our special teams to come up big for us.’’ . . . The Bruins announced that they sold out every regular-season contest at TD Garden this season. It’s the first year they have accomplished that since 1972-73 at Boston Garden. Total attendance was 702,600 over 40 games, the highest average for a season in franchise history (17,565) and second-highest total figure, trailing only the 1995-96 total of 716,443 in 41 games. The Bruins have sold out 71 straight games at TD Garden. The stretch doesn’t include the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park or the “home’’ 2010 game in Prague.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.