If the whole is equal to the sum of its parts, it was pretty obvious throughout last season that some parts of the Boston Bruins
' offense were creating big holes in their overall goal production.
Namely, a power play that ranked among the least-productive in the National Hockey League.
Despite the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle
from the Maple Leafs before the trade deadline to help jump start their anemic man-advantage unit, the ensuing months and into the playoffs became a frustrating struggle to win games -- and then the Stanley Cup -- with woeful power-play production.
A product of Western Michigan University, Joe Corvo
, has manned the blue line for five NHL teams and made it to a Stanley Cup Final -- now he's trying to help the Bruins defend their championship. (Courtesy: Western Michigan University)
In a major offseason move, Kaberle left for a free-agent deal with Carolina; enter Joe Corvo
in a July trade with Carolina in near-perfect symmetry of role swapping.
Symmetry has dogged Corvo on and off the NHL ice since his pro career began in 1998 after three stellar seasons at Western Michigan University.
For the 34-year-old Corvo, Boston is another stop -- and another chance -- on a long and winding career that started just outside Chicago in his native Oak Park, Ill., and led to NCAA play around the horn of Lake Michigan to Kalamazoo at WMU from 1995-98.
He is among a handful of Bronco alums to play in the NHL, a list led by current Flyers and Versus television analyst Keith Jones
, and Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers
"I've seen Jamal here and there," said Corvo, who as a freshman played with Mayers during the latter's senior season, 1995-96. "He always preaches that we need to stick together; we're now the only two (in the NHL) out of our school."
"Preaching" may well be the genesis of Corvo's NCAA and NHL career.
"The NCAA was always on the map," Corvo told NHL.com. "Growing up, my father always preached school. I went to private high schools for that reason -- to get a good education. I was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to play right away and play a lot at Western (Michigan). Plus, it was only an hour drive from (home) and gave me the availability to drive home for a weekend or whatever."
Play he did, helping a senior-laden team reach a third-ever appearance for the school in the NCAA Tournament his freshman season en route to posting 80 points in 105 games over three seasons.
All four Bronco postseason appearances in the school's history have been one-and-done affairs.
"It was my first year there that we went to the NCAAs," Corvo said. "We were full of seniors, and as a freshman you don't realize how good the team will be. And then everybody graduates and you start over. That's why you need to make the best of it, because you don't know if you'll ever get back there."
Much like his only shot at Lord Stanley.
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When asked what was going through his mind Oct. 6 when the Bruins hoisted the 2011 championship banner to the TD Garden rafters, Corvo said: "Let's do it again. It's something I've never done. Been to the Finals and lost (with the Senators in 2007). I've said since then that if I get another chance that I'd do it the right way and win it."
Bruins management is giving Corvo another chance.
"We're not putting the pressure on Joe to change our power play," coach Claude Julien
said, "but he's a heads-up player with pretty good vision with a heavy shot he'll take. It's not about one guy, but as a group, we think the power play will be better."
"He's had significant experience on the power play," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said of Corvo. "He gives us options with his right-hand shot, and he's got a big shot with a little more speed there. I think the team is a little faster, and that might be a little because of Joe and (Tyler) Seguin."
New Corvo colleagues agree.
"Joey is a great skater with a great shot," captain Zdeno Chara
said. "He brings a lot of speed. It's a great addition to our team. We needed somebody to fit this piece."
"He gets the puck to the net and shoots whenever he can," fellow blueliner Dennis Seidenberg
said. "It's a great addition."
Team president Cam Neely
said having Corvo not be a part of last season's group could work to the team's advantage.
"We're going to have some new faces in the lineup that haven't won and they'll be hungry," he said.
"I understand the role I need to fill here, and that was my role in Carolina -- to run the power play," Corvo said. "I will take it personally if things aren't going well and I'm not doing what I need to do to make it successful."
Corvo would assist on the very first goal of the season -- a power-play goal -- in Boston's 2-1 opening-night loss to the Flyers. The team has struggled out of the blocks to get into a rhythm and stands 3-5-0 after eight games.
Ditto for Corvo in the bigger picture.
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"It's been a long road," he said about a career that involved three years of minor-league play before stints with five NHL teams over the past nine seasons -- Los Angeles, Ottawa, Washington, Carolina and Boston.
"I've covered a lot of cities, a lot of ground. I've been traded and pretty much been through everything to this point -- other than the championship."
Corvo will make the best of his chance in Boston after a career that includes that trip to the 2007 Final, plus 79 goals and 261 points in 576 NHL games. That includes 40 points last season with the Hurricanes, tying his career-high.
"I feel like I'm more mature now and can handle a lot of things thrown at me -- been through a lot of stuff since college," Corvo said. "It's been a positive career for me, just to be satisfied that you played in the NHL. Only so many get to play in the NHL.
"It's been perfect (in Boston) so far."