Patrice Bergeron again showing he’s best two-way player in hockey
|03.28.14 at 8:06 am ET|
The last time Patrice Bergeron scored 25 goals in a season, he was a 21-year-old sensation out of Quebec Junior hockey, with lots of speed, playing for a Bruins team out of the playoffs. It was the 2005-06 season and the Bruins under Mike Sullivan finished 29-37-16.
A lot has changed and evolved since.
After watching him put on a two-goal display Thursday night against the team he faced in the finals last season, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that he is in line to win another Selke Trophy this season. He finished second in the race last season and has finished in the top-5 in voting for the award in each of the last four seasons. This will be the fifth straight. As DJ Bean points out, it will be a race between Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, who was a minus-1 in Thursday’s 3-0 Bruins win at TD Garden.
Not only did Bergeron score twice, he won 15 of 21 face-offs and helped lead a defense that shutout the highest-scoring team in the NHL for just the third time this season. He has an NHL-best plus-38, two better than when he won the Selke in 2012. The Bruins have given up just nine goals in their last nine games.
“It’s not something you really are always thinking about,” Bergeron said. “It is something that is part of our game as a team as a whole. We are a defense type of team and we get some offense with playing defensively sound and stuff like that. So I think we have to keep that going.”
Listen to Bergeron and you get a glimpse of what makes him so special – a two-way player who doesn’t take a shift off.
“Every shift is important,” he said. “You can’t really sit back or take a breather because obviously they’re going to turn it up against you. They’re a team that relies a lot on speed I think and their transition as well. I thought once we played a little tighter in the neutral zone and also in our fore check, it gave us some success.”
All of the above was great before but now he’s scoring at a Sidney Crosby pace, at least for the last five games, in which he has six goals, at least one goal in five straight.
“The puck’s going in I guess,” Bergeron said, showing his typical humility. “There’s not much to say about it. It’s just you get those chances sometimes during the year and it doesn’t go in and now it is. Obviously it’s great any time I can chip in offensively and keep my two way game, I’m happy with it.”
Try to give credit to Bergeron and he deflects.
“I’m definitely not going to take the credit for these goals,” Bergeron said. “I mean, I’m getting set up perfectly by these guys. We’re moving and creating plays by communicating and now knowing where the other guys are going to be and that is something that is very important for our line.
“It’s one of those things that takes some time and you have to keep plugging at it, I guess, and talk. The more you play together, the better you’re going to feel. Honestly, it felt pretty good with Smitty [Reilly Smith] right away as soon as we were put together but also, I mean, I’m used to playing with Brad [Marchand]. It’s just a matter of established that chemistry of three of us together.”
“I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that’s watched him play that he values every part of his game,” added coach Claude Julien. “Whether it’s faceoff percentage, whether it’s plus/minus, whether he’s responsible for a goal against ‘ he takes those things every seriously and he’s hard on himself when it comes to that. So, I think he’s proud of what he is. He’s comfortable in the role that he’s asked to play and at the same time, it’s always nice to see guys like that get rewarded with some decent stats, which he deserves.”
So Bergeron is back again scoring, like he did early in his career. He has 53 points and is on pace for his most productive season since his third year in the league, when he had his second straight season of at least 70 points. The only difference now is that he’s among the very best two-way forwards in the game, if not the best.
“I never really thought about it, to be honest with you,” Bergeron said of his production. “It’s kind of one of those things that ‘ like I said, I’m happy it’s going in but I just want to keep my same game, the same level of play, keep getting better. Obviously, that’s part of my game, also it’s to help out offensively and scoring goals and creating plays. I’m definitely happy it’s going in but that being said, I’m happy when I defend a goal as much as scoring them.
Thursday was special to Bergeron for another reason. It was a day after two Boston firefighters – Ed Walsh and Michael Kennedy – lost their lives battling a blaze on Beacon Street in the Back Bay. It was Walsh, Kennedy and the Boston Fire Department – not Bergeron – that earned the first star. And Bergeron – as anyone who has spent any time around him would expect – had no problem with that.
“It was very sad what happened [Wednesday],” Bergeron said. “We feel like we are part of the community now as a whole and it was an important game, we thought, for us to win for all of them. They put their lives at risk and obviously with what happened, our thoughts and prayers are with their families. Like I said, you never want to hear that. They are the heroes and we’re just here to ‘ it puts things in perspective, I guess, if I want to put it that way. Tonight was well-deserved first star.”