Wednesday night, the Bruins take the ice for their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 21 years. The boys in black and gold have become Boston’s darlings, a lovable group of bearded overachievers who have taken us for a crazy ride that began in April and won’t end until June.

But the ride really began in February. That’s when GM Peter Chiarelli shook up the roster in the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline. Chiarelli added Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, players who would provide depth and grit to the lineup.

The two forwards gave the Bruins the type of quality minutes and grind-it-out shifts a team needs to play two months of grueling playoff hockey.

Chiarelli also added Tomas Kaberle. The defenseman came from Toronto with the reputation of being one of the top puck-distributing blueliners in the game.

He was supposed to help make the B’s power play one of the best in the league. He would be that guy who could carry the puck into the offensive zone and help the team set up on attack.

Kaberle has not been that guy for the Bruins. Now that New England has rediscovered hockey, and sports fans throughout the area have been watching the game in record numbers, the fact that he has been a playoff disappointment is widely known.

The 33-year old defenseman played only 13:06 of Friday night’s pulsating Game 7 win over the Lightning at the Garden. That was the least amount of time any B’s D-man spent on the ice.

His ice time was limited by the fact that the Bruins spent no time on the power play (that’s certainly no complaint — the Lightning didn’t, either, and the Bruins’ strengths this spring are definitely in five-on-five skating.)

The lack of minutes logged by Kaberle was a glaring reminder that he has not been a core part of this playoff unit. In fact, his role on the team has diminished with each round.

He hasn’t helped the power play – the Bruins are a woeful 5 for 61 in the Stanley Cup playoffs – and he hasn’t helped himself with his repeated turnovers in the defensive end.

Kaberle has taken the mantle passed on from Dennis Wideman, and Steve Montadore before him, as the defenseman B’s fans love to hate.

The difference is, the Bruins gave up quite a ransom to secure his talents.

By virtue of their appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, the B’s will give up an additional second-round pick in the 2012 draft to the Maple Leafs, on top of a first rounder this summer and prospect Joe Colbourne.

It’s a lot to give up for a guy who has given so little. It also makes the team’s run to June that much more remarkable. Not many teams could see a deal like that fail and still have a successful spring.

We’re reminded of the 2007 Red Sox, who went out and acquired Eric Gagne at the trade deadline.

Gagne, one of the best closers in recent history, was the best player moved that July day. He was also a complete bust in Boston.

And, in spite of his inability to get outs, the Sox won the World Series. They adjusted to the fact that Gagne was a shell of his former self, using him in just one game against the Rockies that October. They didn’t let a bad trade derail their championship run.

So far, the Bruins have been able to do the same thing with Kaberle. Claude Julien, criticized for being the Grady Little of hockey and not making enough adjustments during a game and a series, has adjusted Kaberle’s ice time since the playoffs started.

He’s coached the defensive unit into a strength, not a weakness.

Because of that, Kaberle will undoubtedly be used more sparingly over the next two weeks. We don’t point this out as a negative.

The fact that Chiarelli made the move and that Julien has adjusted to what Kaberle has (and hasn’t) done on the ice is a definite positive.

It’s also a big part of the reason the Bruins are one of two NHL teams still playing hockey this week.

 

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.