By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The national and international appeal of the Winter Classic may not be quite what it once was, but it is nevertheless the league’s marquee midseason event. It is an event that is dedicated to the celebration of hockey, and so it was perfectly fitting that Patrice Bergeron — the world’s most perfect hockey player — delivered what was the perfect Patrice Bergeron moment.
Bruins fans who watch Bergeron on a regular basis are familiar with seeing such feats, but any North American hockey fans tuning in on New Year’s Day were lucky enough to have witnessed the full Patrice Bergeron Experience. And it only took less than 30 seconds.
With the Bruins trailing 2-1 and looking for an equalizer on a power play late in the second period, Blackhawks forward David Kampf ended up stealing the puck from David Pastrnak and breaking free up the ice for a breakaway on Tuukka Rask. Or so he thought. Bergeron, ever the defensive forward, turned on his jets to make up ground on Kampf. Patiently, Bergeron didn’t slash Kampf, didn’t trip him, and did not panic. Bergeron simply waited until Kampf gathered the puck on his forehand before deftly lifting Kampf’s stick to kill the scoring chance.
For most players, this would represent a moderately successful shift. But Bergeron, of course, wasn’t ready to head to the bench. He skated the 200 feet back up the ice into the offensive end. And just 28 seconds after breaking up the breakaway on the other end, the puck managed to find Bergeron — as it often tends to do — in a prime scoring area. Bergeron nonchalantly lifted a backhand past Cam Ward to tie the game at 2-2.
That’s the type of play that can be wildly frustrating for opponents, as evidenced by Jonathan Toews’ issuing of a cross-check to the back of Bergeron well after the rubber had met the twine. Bergeron, of course, opted to celebrate with his teammates rather than respond.
Bergeron has always been consistently excellent at both ends of the ice, but it’s nevertheless rare to see those skills play out in rapid succession on such a grand stage.
“Once he went on his backhand, I knew he was going to go back on his forehand. So I was waiting for him to do that. Then just lift up his stick,” Bergeron explained casually after the 4-2 win.
It was an effort that was clearly appreciated by his goaltender, as Rask twice repeated “Selke” into the microphone as Bergeron finished talking about the play in the postgame press conference.
“I saw Bergy coming back pretty hard,” Rask said. “Obviously Bergy made a great play there. Right as he was shooting, Bergy lifted his stick and broke up the play and then scored a goal. I guess that’s Selke.”
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy appreciated seeing that effort, but he also noted that it’s not the first time Bergeron’s done such a thing. It’s not even the first time this season, in fact. Off the top of his head, Cassidy referenced this play, from earlier this season in Carolina, where Bergeron did “the same thing” to lead to a power-play goal:
“It’s a big, uplifting play for us. And it’s again one of those things, it’s a teaching moment for our younger guys, how not to quit on plays. That’s the leadership we rely on him for. And sure enough, it gets rewarded at the other end,” Cassidy said. “He just has it in him, he never quits, and that’s why he’s Patrice Bergeron.”