By Matt Kalman

BOSTON (CBS) – A national-television audience taking in the Bruins’ tilt with the Detroit Red Wings Friday got a taste of how exceptional a two-way forward Patrice Bergeron can be in Boston’s 3-2 shootout loss.

And they got the biggest dose of Bergeron’s star capabilities on one blink-of-an-eye play.

With the Bruins down a goal for the second time in the contest, Bergeron swooped to the rescue to salvage a point despite his team’s 10-game winning streak drawing to a close. Bergeron tagged up during a delayed offside call and then read the Red Wings’ breakout play perfectly. He stole the puck from Henrik Zetterberg at the left wing dot, and as his momentum carried him toward the Detroit goal he roofed a shot past Jimmy Howard for the tying score.

“Yeah because you’re coming in with a lot of speed there, you’re pretty much coming in with full speed just to get that take away so to get that shot off I guess you just got to … I was just trying to go high on that one because I knew he was going to go butterfly so I didn’t really pick a spot to be honest with you,” said Bergeron when describing the degree of difficulty associated with his clutch goal.

The goal was Bergeron’s only point of the night. But as he always does, Bergeron filled the score sheet with other contributions, including four blocked shots and a 10-for-19 faceoff success rate which ran better over the course of the game than it finished. Plus, there are always the subtle-but-important things Bergeron does with his quick stick and body position that never get onto any sheet but help Boston succeed.

Bergeron picked a perfect afternoon to provide the Bruins with one of his vintage all-around games, as the sellout Black Friday crowd and the millions watching on their televisions got to see how Bergeron compared to the gold standard for NHL two-way forwards – three-time Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk.

Datsyuk, on the strength of his play and his team’s victory, probably stole some of the spotlight from the home team’s star center. The Russian scored a goal in regulation and then netted one of Detroit’s two shootout goals in the post-overtime skills competition. He won 11 of 21 draws.

Nonetheless, Bergeron won five of eight faceoffs head-to-head with Datsyuk, most of which came late in the game when head coach Claude Julien finally recognized David Krejci’s struggles against the Wings star (Krejci was 2-for-10 against Datsyuk). And once they were on the ice together for a faceoff, they stayed out there together and butted heads almost to a draw.

Bergeron relished the challenge of facing a multi-talented force like Datsyuk.

“Yeah he’s a great player obviously very good with the stick. He’s got a good stick and it’s something that he’s been very successful with he’s got some great skills on both sides of the rink,” said Bergeron. “He works hard and good on draws so he’s a very good player very good two-way player. It’s always nice to play against guys like that.

Bergeron was fourth in the Selke voting, as the league’s best defensive forward, a year ago. He once made an Olympic team on his stupendous defensive-zone play alone, but has once again emerged as an offensive threat with 17 points in 21 games. It’s a weird contradiction that to be considered for an award as the best defensive forward, you have to put up some above-average offensive numbers, but that’s just the way it goes.

If the world didn’t fully digest Bergeron’s two-way prowess last June during his amazing Stanley Cup Final performance against Vancouver, it saw Friday that Bergeron can hold his own against Datsyuk. So while the Bruins and Wings won’t meet again this year, Bergeron and Datsyuk will probably be one and two in the Selke polling all year long. They’ll probably meet again at next summer’s NHL Awards (if not in the upcoming Cup Final).

As an elite two-way forward, Bergeron has now thrust himself near the top of the heap.


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