For Chiarelli, a night of pride and joy
General manager Peter Chiarelli is the only member of the Bruins who actually has to pay attention.
Coach Claude Julien and the players don’t have to read newspapers, listen to radio talk shows, check websites, or tweet if they choose not to. For many, it’s too much of a distraction from their focus on this intense postseason marathon, and they elect not to read or listen to the comments, good or bad, about their performance.
At least that’s what they say.
But Chiarelli can’t ignore the critics. It’s his job to take note of everything, to listen and react. So yesterday, less than 24 hours after the hockey team he assembled beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 1-0, to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, Chiarelli took time at the Garden to describe his gratification, and to give credit to some of the principals who did not ask for that credit, including Julien, captain Zdeno Chara, and trade-deadline acquisition Tomas Kaberle.
First, Chiarelli was happy for the players. After the final siren sounded Friday night, he stopped to watch the Bruins as they jumped up and down on the bench and across the ice, grinning and hugging each other.
“It was a special feeling,’’ said Chiarelli. “You look over and see the ice, see these guys, and I watch how they celebrate, how emotional they are.
“You try to see each of them to see how they would react. You felt good for them, you really felt good for them. I genuinely felt very strongly and positively for them. You felt happy for them.
“Then immediately after that feeling passed, I realized that we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.’’
The Cup is the dream, and only those on the inside know how much it takes to get a team through an 82-game regular season and three grueling playoff rounds. Chiarelli opened up about the crucial moves the team has made as the postseason played out. Making the decisions about different combinations to create four fine lines is, well, walking a fine line.
“I commend Claude and his staff for doing that,’’ Chiarelli said. “It’s a double-edged sword, when you hear all the water-cooler talk about this and that line combination, we should do this and that.
“Well, often times, the momentum, the capital that you’ve accumulated on a certain line, you can throw it all away by making a certain change, too. And I understand that you don’t always have to stick with the same lines. But it’s a fine line and I thought Claude did a good job.’’
Chiarelli said it was not just changing the players on a line, but changing the play of the players on the line, that helped the Bruins advance.
“As much as you see the changes that [Julien] does on the ice, there is stuff that goes on, too, behind, as far as changing the way a player plays on that specific line, and that can be subtle,’’ Chiarelli said. “But I know for a fact that can happen and I’ve seen it before my own eyes this past series.’’
Chiarelli noted, for instance, that coaches and management agreed to bump up the minutes for Chara and defense partner Dennis Seidenberg after Game 2 of the conference finals to bolster their shutdown role.
“And really, they’ve blossomed and allowed the other D to settle more comfortably into their roles,’’ said Chiarelli.
Seeing Chara call over his teammates to share the honor when the Prince of Wales trophy was awarded made Chiarelli proud.
“Z’s never been there, so he goes up there and, you always talk about whether you touch the trophy or not, and you’re probably thinking about a bunch of different things like, ‘Wow, we made it,’ and all this stuff,’’ Chiarelli said.
“Well, you can tell what’s first on his mind, like let’s get the team up there. And you look at the photo afterwards, it’s a pretty cool photo.’’
And as for Kaberle, who was acquired from the Maple Leafs to help move the puck and to reinvigorate the power play but who has struggled, earning considerable criticism, Chiarelli was quick to defend the defenseman.
“I know he’s added to the team,’’ said Chiarelli. “Yes, he has been under heat, but what he’s added to the team is something that we didn’t have and something that’s almost impossible to find at the trade deadline, and that’s the ability to make strong plays with the puck offensively. That’s the ability to skate into a trap like we saw this past series.’’
So much was expected from Kaberle, perhaps too much.
“What is significant for our team is his ability to slow the play down, to see seams, to make passes,’’ said Chiarelli. “And then you’ve seen some shot-blocking, too.
“Obviously, our power play has struggled, but you can’t blame Tomas Kaberle for that. He’s part of the reason, I’m part of the reason, we’re all part of the reason it’s struggled, and it has to get better. What he’s brought is what we needed and it’s helped our team.’’