Career-changing, franchise-changing, and even life-changing.
Those were some of the changes the hockey world thought the concussion woes of Patrice Bergeron would bring to the 24-year old forward and the Boston Bruins organization. After suffering his second major cocussion in just under 14 months, the concerns as to the well-being of the Bruins’ alternate-captain grew before recovery would unexpectedly-quickly play its role. Concluding his turbulent year with a strong resurgence at the tail-end of the regular season which included his first career NHL fight (in the playoffs no less), B’s fans couldn’t help but hope and pray that #37 had turned the corner that had haunted his career for two straight seasons.
The rumblings that Bergeron was ‘back’ were solidified when the longest-tenured Bruin forward scored Boston’s lone goal on a breakaway against Jose Theodore in opening night’s 4-1 loss at the TD Garden. Displaying a positive sign and a change from the season prior, where it took Bergeron seven games to score his first goal of the campaign, it would only be the beginning of the season for who would turn out to be Boston’s most consistent scorer.
Playing with Mark Recchi on his wing for nearly the entire season, the oft-considered-tame vocal presence of the Bruins, Bergeron led by example for the lethargic 2009-10 Boston Bruins. Never going more than five contests without registering a point, Bergeron started off the first two months of the year with 18 points in 26 games, the best start through two months of play in his short career.
Considered a premier-face-off man, Bergeron led the Bruins in virtually every offensive category throughout the season, the battles at the dot being no exception. Winning a total 778 out of 1342 face-off’s on the season, Bergeron’s 58% was tops on the roster and 3.7% percent better than the full-time Bruins center in line (Vladimir Sobotka). Continuing his Selke-worthy season from the defensive stand-point, Bergeron led all B’s forwards with 45 blocked shots and a staggering 55 takeaways.
These numbers and hustle-points if you will didn’t go unnoticed by Team Canada assembler Steve Yzerman, who named Bergeron, a non-invitee to Canada’s summer camp, to the 2010 Olympic squad. Originally slated on the wing of superstars Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla, Bergeron quickly found himself bumped down and relegated to fourth line duty for Team Canada in their eventual capture of a Gold medal in Vancouver. Despite cries from the Bruins-faithful regarding Mike Babcock‘s use (or lack of) of #37 during the Olympics, the achievement of Bergeron, who missed six games prior to the team selection with a broken thumb, was still outstanding considering the personal health of the kid from Quebec just a short year and change ago.
However, as quickly as our smiles for Bergeron’s Gold were evident, the alternate-captain found himself in the fires of leading his club to the NHL playoffs. As the B’s began to fade without Marc Savard in the line-up, when a real winger failed to arrive in Boston during the trade deadline, the strong-willed Bergeron suited up and put together a near point-per-game month of March. Spared from Savard-less doom by the stellar finishes of Bergeron and David Krejci, Bergeron’s best moment and perhaps most telling moment of what he meant to this club came in the home-finale of the season.
Clinging to their lives of a once 3-0 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes, a clear by Boston in the offensive end on a delayed penalty let a puck fly toward the Bruins’ empty-net with Bergeron in hot pursuit. Skating with reckless aggression, Bergeron somehow someway gets the blade of his stick on the puck and pulls it off the line, ultimately saving the Bruins’ lead and perhaps their season.
Assuming the role of the Bruins’ top-line center, Bergeron came into the postseason as perhaps Boston’s most successful performer against the Buffalo Sabres with 16 points in 29 career contests, seven of which coming on the power-play. Sure enough, those numbers would be a sign of things to come in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Held to just one assist in the opening two games of the series in Buffalo, Bergeron and the B’s headed back to Boston looking to grab a beyond pivotal lead in the series that pitted strength against strength. In typical fashion in 2009-10 for the Bruins, a late dump-in where Recchi knocked rookie Tim Kennedy off the puck and fed it to Bergeron who potted his first playoff goal of the season to give the Bruins the eventual game-winning goal in the closing half of the third period. Registering two more points in the Bruins’ double-overtime win in Game 4, Bergeron finished the series with an assist in Boston’s series-clinching Game 6 win.
With Bergeron performing exceedingly well on the power-play between Recchi and David Krejci, the Bruins’ special teams propelled the club into the second round for the second straight year for a match-up with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bolstered by the return of Marc Savard in round two, the Bergeron line quickly did their job in easing the burden of the rest of the lines by scoring two quick goals in first period of the Bruins’ Game 1 OT victory, with #37 getting an assist along with a tip-in goal in the contest.
Scoring points in both games 2 and 3 as the Bruins widened their lead to a seemingly concrete 3-0 in the series, Bergeron’s dramatic two points in Game 4 wouldn’t be enough as Simon Gagne and the Flyers staved off elimination on home-ice in overtime. Then, Bergeron, like most of the Bruins, was suddenly neutralized by a defense that fully believed in what was considered hockey’s version of mission impossible.
Held off the scoreboard in the proceeding three contests, Bergeron, who came into the year with a bang went out a whimper of a game in Game 7, putting just one shot on goal and finishing with a -1.
Highlights of the Season
* Bergeron finished with the most even-strength goals among any Bruin on the season with 18.
* Finshing the season with 1:56 minutes of shorthanded time-on-ice per game, Bergeron still finished the season with 52 points, tied for the team lead with David Krejci.
* Deking around fellow Team Canada member Chris Pronger in route to a goal, Bergeron pulled off his “move” of the year.
Low-lights of the Season
* While Patrice was relied upon in nearly every other facet of the game, he struggled in the shootout for Boston, going 3-for-13 on the season.
* On November 16th, Bergeron had arguably the worst game of his career against the New York Islanders. Logging 21 minute of time-on-ice and registering a lone shot on goal, Bergeron finished with a -4 on the night.
It’s entirely possible that Bergeron was the only Bruin who lived up to his expectations in 2009-10, and will be entering the final year of a contract that pays him 4.75 million in 2010-11. With a no-trade clause that kicks in on July 1st this year, the 24-year old center has found himself the subject of trade rumors regarding the Bruins and their number two overall pick in this month’s draft. Following along with the idea that the Oilers are going to end up taking Taylor Hall, the thought process among some has been that the Bruins will trade Bergeron in the event of that in order to make room for center Tyler Seguin, the equally talented prospect in terms of skill with Hall. However, given Bergeron’s past season and the friendly entry-level deal that Seguin would arrive to Boston with for three years, a trade of #37 seems as unlikely as it is reckless for the B’s.
Don’t be shocked if the Bruins and Bergeron hammer out an extension during the regular season.
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About the Author: Ty Anderson ran the Chronicles From The Garden blogspot account during the 2008-09 NHL season before joining HockeyIndependent as the Bruins Blogger. He is a Seinfeld enthusiast, self-admitted Star Wars nerd, Vezina-quality street-hockey goaltender, and can be found in Balcony 314 of every Bruins home game. Follow him and his tweeting madness on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/_TyAnderson or send him an e-mail at TAndersonBruins@gmail.com.