Kalman: Healthier, Luckier Patrice Bergeron Should Overcome Age-Related Offensive Challenges

By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Math and common sense tells us that even the most prolific offensive players begin to decline after 30. So when Patrice Bergeron’s point total dropped from 68 in 2015-16 to 53 last season, despite playing on a line all season with Brad Marchand and most of the season with David Pastrnak, one had to figure even the mighty multi-time Selke Trophy winner was susceptible to the powers of Father Time.

However, there were other factors at work last season keeping Bergeron from reaching his usual offensive output. First and foremost was a sports hernia he sustained during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Bergeron had the injury surgically repaired in May, and Thursday after a captains’ practice at Warrior Ice Arena he guaranteed he’d be 100 percent when the Bruins open training camp in two weeks.

With his health no longer an issue, Bergeron could be primed for a better year even now that he’s 32.

“It’s mostly just not having any pain,” Bergeron said. “It’s just being able to skate, having a full stride and not having to think about it and not having to have the muscle warm up for 15, 20 minutes and then being ready. I think it’s mostly pain, so it’s definitely going to help for my skating.”

Bergeron had just six points (three goals, three assists) in his first 21 games last season as he learned how to deal with the injury. He picked up the pace as the season went on by adjusting his mentality.

“That was the one thing that was just difficult, you know it’s there and it’s annoying and it’s one of those where you have to battle through it but you still know that no matter what the next day it’s still going to be there,” Bergeron said. “It was hard that way, it was in my head also, but once I was past that hurdle of realizing it’s going to be there for the whole year and just kind of not worrying about it, I felt better. But that being said, it’s still one of those where – it’s not an excuse for the slow start I had and missing some chances –but still it was slowing me down a bit and was just annoying.”

Bergeron still managed to land 302 shots on net, his most since 2005-06 (310) and attempted a career-best 480 shots, even with injury and two shoot-first type players on his wings. His shooting percentage, like that of the entire Bruins’ team, dipped to a career low 7.0. A little more luck, a bounce here or there, and his percentage should creep up just two percentage points and make him a 30-goal scorer again after he scored 21 last season.

No one is predicting Bergeron will suddenly burst out and become a 40-goal scorer. But if there’s anyone that can buck the trend of descending goal totals at his age, it’s an all-around talent like Bergeron, who keeps himself in tip-top shape and should be rested and ready because he couldn’t skate until late July after surgery.

If Bergeron’s goal total doesn’t reach past or unprecedented heights, it should have more to do with those around him putting the puck in the net more. His assist total might wind up being a better indicator of his offensive contribution.

Nonetheless, Bergeron believes he can do more to make the Bruins more than just a one-and-done playoff team this season, and considering his career trajectory there’s no reason to doubt him.

“Hopefully I’ll have a better start. That being said I’m trying to get back to my game, playing both ways and you always want to push your limits, be better, offensively but also defensively and in every aspect of the game,” Bergeron said. “So I guess that’s always my approach is I don’t want to tell you one thing because I want to work on many things.”

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.

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