By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s time, ladies and gents, to share a brief appreciation of a hockey player named Patrice Bergeron-Cleary.
Sure, there’s plenty of that around these parts, but it’s timely now after the Bruins’ leader scored two goals — one of the real variety, the other an empty-netter — as part of Thursday night’s 5-1 win over the Devils in New Jersey.
And when Bergeron deposited that puck into the vacated frame from just past the red line at center ice, the tally put him at a clean 30 goals scored for the season. Considering he’s played in just 58 games, that’s quite the feat.
For Bergeron, though, it’s just the latest season where he’s reached 30. He scored exactly 30 goals last year (in 64 games played), and a career-high 32 goals two years prior in 2015-16. He scored 31 goals at age 20 in 2005-06, just his second year in the NHL, and he scored exactly 30 in 2013-14, the year he won his second of four Selke Trophies. This year marked his fifth 30-goal season.
This year, with 41 assists on top of his 30 goals, Bergeron is averaging 1.22 points per game. That’s by far the best of his career, as the closest he’s ever come to a point-per-game season was last year, when he averaged 0.98 points per game. (He’s also set a career high with four short-handed goals, after never scoring more than two in any season of his career.)
That Bergeron is playing some of the best hockey of his Hall of Fame career at age 33 should not be altogether surprising. He is, after all, as heady as they come. And though he’s battled through the normal bumps and bruises (and punctured lungs) that most hockey players deal with, he’s remained relatively healthy ever since a serious concussion threatened his career back in 2007, an issue which surfaced again in 2008 and again during the 2011 Stanley Cup run.
He’s still a possession machine (his Corsi For Percentage is 56.9 this year, and it’s been over 56.0 for the past eight years), he remains a top faceoff man (he ranks fifth in the NHL this season among players who have taken at least 1,000 draws), and he’s now just three goals and three points from setting career highs in both categories — in a season where he missed 17 games in November/December due to a rib injury.
Reunited with David Pastrnak for the second straight game after the winger’s lengthy injury absence, Bergeron and Brad Marchand once again hogged all the ink on the score sheet in this most recent victory. Bergeron had the two goals plus an assist, Pastrnak had a goal and one helper, and Marchand tallied three assists to add to his career-high point total, which is now at an even 90 with eight games left to play. Despite Pastrnak potentially dealing with some discomfort in his thumb, the Bruins’ top line once again looked like the best three-man unit in hockey.
It’s not that Bergeron gets taken for granted in Boston. And frankly, with Bergeron catching votes as one of the best players in the league, he’s not taken for granted anywhere.
But, as the end of the regular season kind of slogs to an end, with the first-round playoff matchup against Toronto basically set in stone, it’s a worthwhile time to remember that the alternate captain who’s played 1,021 games for the local hockey team? Well, as he has been for many years, he remains a perfect hockey player.