VANCOUVER - Tomas Kaberle is making up for lost time in the Stanley Cup final.
The veteran defenceman spent the past five springs wondering whether the Maple Leafs would get to the playoffs again during his tenure in Toronto. But now, following a late-season trade to Boston, Kaberle is playing a key role with the Bruins as they seek their first championship since 1972.
And despite losing the first game of the series, he's enjoying every moment.
"It's what you play for," Kaberle said at the Bruins' hotel before Saturday's Game 2. "At the start of the season, you always set goals and one of them is to make it the playoffs and go from there. For the past five, six years it wasn't easy."
Kaberle was dealt to the Bruins prior to the trade deadline for Joe Colborne, a 2011 first-round draft choice and conditional second-round pick that depends on whether he re-signs with Boston after becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He's grateful to Leafs general manager Brian Burke for trading him to a contender.
The 33-year-old Kladno, Czech Republic, native made the playoffs in his first five years in league before enduring a five-year dry spell before this season. He had hoped to be part of Toronto's rebuilding process and used his no-trade clause when Burke attempted to deal him previously.
But with his contract due to expire, Kaberle saw the writing on the wall and opted to try and get his name on the Stanley Cup this season.
"It's nice not to answer those questions (about the Leafs' playoff hopes) and just focus on hockey," said Kaberle, adding that Burke never consulted him on which teams he had a chance to go to.
"Obviously, there's always options, but I'm glad I ended up in Boston," said Kaberle. "It's a great hockey team and it's a great group of guys. They have been since the first day I came to Boston. They've helped me enjoy my experience, and hopefully we can do something special here."
Added Bruins winger Michael Ryder: "He's been working for so long and never really got the opportunity. We're glad to have him on the team. He's definitely a big part of us, and hopefully we can make sure he gets (the Cup)."
If the Bruins do capture the Cup, Kaberle will have something in common with his older brother Frantisek, 37, who won it all with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06. The elder Kaberle, who has spent the past two seasons playing in the Czech Republic, is giving his younger sibling advice.
"We always talk on the phone and stuff," said Kaberle. "He knows what we're going through and he said: Make the most of it."