Corvo may be better fit than Kaberle
But how will that revamped defense look? And how will Corvo fit into a blue-line corps that came together so effectively in the club's Stanley Cup run this spring?
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Corvo, acquired Tuesday from Carolina for a fourth-round pick, will replace much of the mobility and offensive ability that Kaberle, who signed a three-year deal with the Hurricanes earlier on Tuesday, had been brought in to add in a trade deadline deal with Toronto.
But there are some key differences in the two defensemen's games. Kaberle was a pass-first player who often seemed reluctant to shoot, putting just 31 shots on goal in 24 games with the Bruins, and 130 overall in the regular season. Corvo, meanwhile, doesn't hesitate to unleash his booming shot, putting 191 shots on net last year.
While both blueliners contribute on special teams, Kaberle was strictly a power-play guy, averaging just 25 seconds of shorthanded time a game with the Bruins. Corvo logged plenty of power-play time (4:01 a game), but also was a mainstay on the penalty kill for the Hurricanes, playing 2:42 a game shorthanded.
"I think it's the experience, I'm a lot more comfortable in a lot of situations," Corvo, 34, said in a conference call on Tuesday. "I've played a lot of penalty kill, and I've pretty much done it all out there now. So it's more of just a calm factor to where I know what I can do out there and I'm not going to really extend too far past that and try and do too much. I think that just the years I've played, you kind of find your niche and you figure out what it takes for you to be successful, and you just do those things over and over. And I think that's where I'm at right now."
But the most obvious difference between the two defensemen is the fact that Corvo is a right-handed shot, while Kaberle, on the rare occasions he actually did shoot, did so left-handed. That switch actually gives the Bruins a balance of three left-handed defensemen in Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference, and three right-handers in Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Corvo.
But it's not as simple as just pairing them off to have each player line up on their strong side. Seidenberg actually plays best on the right side, especially when teamed up with Chara. That pairing emerged as one of the premier shutdown duos in the league in the playoffs. They were put together after Boston dropped the first two games of its opening round series with Montreal and that may have been coach Claude Julien's most important tactical adjustment of the postseason.
The Bruins would be best served to keep that duo together, and Corvo's addition should give them the chance to do that. Without the addition of a veteran like Corvo, the Bruins likely would have turned to youngster Steven Kampfer to take on an expanded role. And while Kampfer showed flashes of promise in his first pro season, the B's probably would have had to split up Chara and Seidenberg and put one of those veterans with Kampfer to compensate for the young defenseman's learning curve.
Now the Bruins can keep Chara and Seidenberg together, with Corvo either sliding into Kaberle's spot alongside McQuaid on the third pairing or playing with Boychuk on the second pair, which would reunite Ference and McQuaid. Those two played together for much of the regular season and during McQuaid's first taste of NHL action in 2009-10. Kampfer, meanwhile, could remain with the big club as the seventh defenseman or further refine his game logging big minutes with Providence if the Bruins add a veteran better suited to such a depth role.
Putting Corvo with either McQuaid or Boychuk will force him to play on his off side, but both Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and Corvo said that shouldn't be a problem.
"He could play on the left side," Chiarelli said. "I mean he's fast enough, he's got a good enough stick and he's smart enough, so I'm sure you're going to see a lot of different combinations. But at first blush, we do feel comfortable putting him in at that left side if need be."
"Yeah, I played the left side my first couple of years in LA, or my last couple of years, actually," he said. "It's not really a big transition for me."
A bigger adjustment for Corvo could be taking on a reduced role in Boston compared to what he had become accustomed to in Carolina, where he averaged 24:46 of ice time last season. Even with a chance to play extensively on the power play and contribute on the penalty kill, he will likely play significantly less than that behind big minutes-eaters Chara and Seidenberg.
Still, Corvo will get his chances, and his addition may actually help ease the load on Boston's top pair, at least in the regular season.
"There's a lot of ebbs and flows in the season, and we'll see where Joe fits in," Chiarelli said. "I think he did have 24 minutes this past year, almost 25. That may be a little high, but we'll see how it goes and how he plays."