Bergy… No holding back this year
|04.14.09 at 3:27 pm ET|
The star center was on the cusp of returning from a grade 3 concussion suffered on Oct. 27, 2007 when Philadelphia’s Randy Jones drilled him into the corner boards at the Garden. He battled all winter with severe headaches and pain generally associated with that type of serious concussion.
Bergeron had returned to the Ristuccia Center ice and was skating with his teammates, even taking some hits in practice. But head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli were not about to risk the long term future for short-term gain, even if it meant conceding a huge piece of depth along the front line.
“There’s no doubt that had we had him last year, and even Chuck Kobasew who missed the playoffs, we might have gotten past the first round,” said Julien, who watched his team come from 3-1 down only to succumb in seven heart-stopping games in the first round. “Those are sometimes the little details that you’re missing at times. But our young guys had a chance to develop because of the absence of those guys.”
But for Bergeron, there really was no silver lining. He missed out on a chance to play against the team he followed as a youth growing up, and on the greatest stage there is for this rivalry-the Stanley Cup playoffs. On Tuesday, though, as the Bruins returned to that same sheet of ice, there was no looking back on the near-miss of the playoffs of 2008.
“Not really,” Bergeron said. “I’m just excited to have a chance to be on the ice and have a chance to help the team to win. That’s all that matters to me. It’s kind of in the past. I’m looking forward right now and can’t wait for Thursday.”
While the reason Bergeron is excited might be the fact he missed the postseason 12 months ago, Julien has a more strategic reason for looking forward to seeing Bergy on the ice.
“He’s probably been our best two-way player the last month or so on our team,” Julien said. “I think he’s been getting better and better every game since the start of the year. We knew it was going to take a while but having him in the lineup, he’s a good leader, leads by example and he’s a very reliable player. And although he’s still a young man still, I think he’s got enough experience in this league, he’s going to give us that much more depth.”
The points back up Julien’s point. Bergeron had eight goals and 31 assists in his return this season. But in the last eight games that Bergeron registered either a point or an assist, the Bruins were 6-1-1.
Still, there was a little concern last week for Bergeron when he took a puck off his skate in the Montreal game on Thursday and missed the final two games against Buffalo and the New York Islanders over the weekend.
But his presence on the ice on Tuesday was a pretty sure sign that the Canadiens will have to deal with him this time around in the playoffs.