BOSTON (CBS) – The last time Patrice Bergeron’s goal total ventured to the heights it’s at right now, he was a 20-year-old without a letter on his sweater.
Most disappointing to Bergeron was that although he scored 25 goals and totaled 53 points, he was just a plus-3 for a Bruins team that failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first year after the yearlong lockout.
With his two-goal performance in the Bruins’ 3-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at TD Garden, the 28-year-old Bergeron now has 25 goals and his 53 points are tied with Milan Lucic for third on the team.
Bergeron doesn’t care. He’s a NHL-leading plus-38 and the Bruins are battling for the Presidents’ Trophy. That’s what he’s focused on.
“Yeah, the puck’s going in, I guess. There’s not much to say about it,” he said after the Bruins ruined the Blackhawks’ return where they won the Stanley Cup last June. “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 anytime I can chip in offensively and keep my two-way game, I’m happy with it.”
That’s the scary part of what’s happened to Bergeron this season. He’s still the same defensive force he was when he won the Selke Trophy in 2011-12 and was a runner-up in 2013. In addition to his gaudy plus/minus, he’s winning 59 percent of his faceoffs (3rd in the League). And without barraging you with numbers, trust me when I tell you that all the advanced stats back up the argument for Bergeron the best defensive forward in the league.
Yet somehow he’s still finding ways to score and could wind up with close to 30 goals. And he does it without ever slacking off or slumping on defense.
“No. I mean, no. I don’t feel like it does [ever slump],” Bergeron said. “I’m not going to [wait that extra second] or cheat for that extra play just to get that goal. I’m going to try to be at the right place, and once usually when it does, you get rewarded.”
The elite defensive play is the baseline by which Bergeron lives his life and plays his game. There are no ups or downs, just a straight line of greatness. The offense, however, comes and goes for Bergeron like it does for every player not named Wayne Gretzky. As long as he can help his team with a rushed backcheck, a blocked shot or a faceoff win, Bergeron feels fulfilled.
“I mean to me it’s really second nature. It’s really there for me,” he said. “You know if I get into those slumps, have a tough time scoring, I really rely on my defensive part of the game to keep helping my team.”
Maybe it’s time to stop talking about the Selke Trophy and start considering Bergeron for the Hart Trophy. It’s difficult on a balanced Bruins team that’s so solid at both ends of the rink to pick one player that’s the team’s most valuable, let alone pick one that could be the most valuable player in the league. And in a league with so many all-world talents scoring at a decent pace and playing for winning teams, Bergeron will never earn the national acclaim that’d be necessary to get into the MVP chatter.
So Bergeron will just have to settle for Selke, and maybe Lady Byng, consideration. Oh, and the fact that he’s on a team that’s going to be just a handful of legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup when the playoffs open.
He’ll also always get plenty of love from his coach.
“I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that’s watched him play that he values every part of his game. 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,” Claude Julien said. “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.”
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