By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are many parts of Patrice Bergeron’s all-around game that don’t show up on the score sheet, nights full of plays made from intuition and smarts that play a major role in Boston Bruins victories, even if there was no statistical record of that impact.
Thursday night was not one of those times.
With captain Zdeno Chara sitting out due to an undisclosed injury, the Bruins’ longtime alternate captain seemingly took it upon himself to ensure the Bruins would not dilly, would not dally, and would make sure that the trip back to Boston would be a celebratory one.
Bergeron certainly made the most of his 16:42 of ice time. He was on the ice for the Bruins’ first goal of the night early in the second period, and he later scored a dagger of a power-play goal late in that period, just 24 seconds after Greg McKegg got sent to the box for skating into Tuukka Rask’s head. And in the third period, the quintessential Bergeron goal put a cap on the game and the series. On an aggressive forecheck, Bergeron has his stick in position to deflect a breakout pass by Jaccob Slavin. In a bit of good fortune, the puck ricocheted directly to David Pastrnak, who knew instantly that Bergeron would be getting himself in perfect position to score.
It all worked out quite nicely.
Considering how far out of position Curtis McElhinney ended up, it looked like an easy goal for Bergeron. But rest assured, such goals don’t come easy. They come from hard work and anticipation, and those chances don’t spring up by accident.
What’s also not coincidental is the fact that Bergeron’s resume in huge games in franchise history is quite long.
In Game 7 of the 2011 conference quarterfinals vs. Montreal, Bergeron had an assist in the Bruins’ 4-3 win.
In Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Bergeron scored two goals — the first of which gave Boston a 1-0 advantage in the first, the second of which came shorthanded in the second period to double that lead.
In the famed comeback in Game 7 against Toronto in 2013, Bergeron scored the game-tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation before scoring the overtime game-winner to end the series. He also had an assist on the goal that cut Toronto’s lead to 4-3.
Matched up against Sidney Crosby in the conference finals against Pittsburgh that year, Bergeron scored two goals with two assists in the series sweep. (Crosby scored zero goals and added zero assists.)
In Game 7 vs. Toronto in 2018, Bergeron had a goal and two assists.
In seven of the bigger games of this era of Bruins hockey (2011 Montreal Game 7, 2011 Vancouver Game 7, 2013 Toronto Game 7, 2013 Pittsburgh Game 2, 2018 Toronto Game 7, 2019 Toronto Game 7, 2019 Carolina Game 4), Bergeron has a plus-18 rating to go with 15 points on nine goals and six assists.
He hasn’t always delivered in every crucial playoff game, but no player ever has. Even Wayne Gretzky lost a few games. More often than not, Bergeron has elevated his own Hall of Fame level of play when his team has needed it. As a result, Bergeron will be playing in his third Stanley Cup Final next week.
The Bruins scored four goals in their Game 4 victory complete their sweep of the Hurricanes. Bergeron was on the ice for all four. That is no accident.
Leftover thoughts, forthcoming.
–The Bruins have a historically dominant power play right now, and Bergeron’s been the main driver in that department. With another power-play goal on Thursday, Bergeron now has six this postseason. That trails only Cam Neely’s nine for most in a single postseason.
That’s not a Bruins record, either. Neely is tied with Mike Bossy for most power-play goals in a single postseason. Bergeron’s currently tied for sixth with 28 other players.
–Not sure if you noticed, but play was stopped *SIX* times for a hand pass on Thursday night. Six times! It was uncomfortable. That is all.
–I’m not entirely sure why, but Zdeno Chara showing up in full uniform for the postgame celebration/handshake line/trophy presentation instantly vaulted high up the list of highlights from the season.
Some could say that such partying should be reserved for the Stanley Cup Final, for the big enchilada, for the grand daddy of them all. But you know what? Zdeno Chara has worked so hard and sacrificed so many of life’s pleasures to get to this spot. He deserves 11 minutes of celebration.
–Plus, it led to the handshake exchange with Rod Brind’Amour, which was just delightful. And that interaction led me to realize that Chara and Brind’Amour are separated in age by just 6 years and 7 months. The second-oldest Bruins player is David Backes, who is 7 years and 1 month younger than Chara.
Chara is closer in age to the Hurricanes’ head coach than he is to any of his teammates.
As Brind’Amour eloquently stated, “YOU CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS!”
But he can.
–There’s not much left to say about Tuukka Rask at this point, so I’ll just throw this one out to the world: There is nothing — NOTHING — more disrespectful to an opponent than a casual wrist flick glove save. Nothing. Where some goalies like to add some flair and flourish to a standard glove save, a goaltender who’s truly in the zone and has no interest in making the crowd ooh and ahh is a goaltender who nonchalantly flips up his glove and snares a flying puck as if he’s in the backyard playing catch with his 7-year-old child.
My goodness. There are kids watching, Tuukka!
–Rask’s stats in conference final series are funny:
.972 save percentage
–For as good as Rask has been, I thought it really stood out how dedicated the Bruins were to blocking shots in Game 4. Nobody on the ice was willing to take it easy or take for granted the work their goaltender was doing in the crease, and seemingly everybody was willing to pay the price — even after blocking a shot likely ended Chris Wagner’s postseason in Game 3.
The Bruins blocked 23 Carolina shot attempts on the night, a fairly high number, and a good deal higher than their postseason average of 14.5. The effort was top to bottom, too. Marcus Johansson and Patrice Bergeron blocked three shots apiece, while six Bruins — Brandon Carlo, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, and Connor Clifton — had two blocks apiece. Five different Bruins recorded a single shot block.
Krug also was a monster in terms of time on ice, logging 27 minutes of ice time, more than 25 minutes of which came at even strength. In the absence of Chara, the defensive effort of Krug, Carlo, Grzelcyk and McAvoy was clearly evident.
It’s that effort that should serve the Bruins well going forward. If they weren’t going to take this game for granted, then they’re not going to take anything for granted.
–Brad Marchand’s shot fake to set up the first power-play goal is probably not getting enough credit. Curtis McElhinney was fully committed to the shot, and why wouldn’t he be? A player like Marchand with a sniper’s touch, flying up the left wing? He’s going to shoot it. Surely he’s not going to try to go tape-to-tape to a well-covered teammate streaking toward the net. That would be impossible. He’s going to shoot.
That was elite. Probably the best part of a deep Bruins playoff run is watching the hockey world contort itself into pretzels upon seeing Marchand’s undeniable skill level.
Pastrnak and Marchand colliding at full speed to begin their celebration was likewise elite. You can’t practice that one, folks.
–A fun twist for the Cup Final: No matter which team emerges from the West, a major storyline will be a veteran forward playing against a team for which he previously served as captain. If San Jose advances (and, based on the breaks they keep catching, they probably will), then it’ll be Joe Thornton seeking his first Stanley Cup at age 39, and needing to go through the team that traded him away in his prime to get it. If the Blues advanced, then it’ll be David Backes playing against the team he captained for five years and spent 10 years with, from 2006-16.
And if I know one thing about the hockey world, it’s that they absolutely hate watching Brad Marchand succeed. And if I know a second thing about the hockey world, it’s that they love a good story about an old guy finally reaching the promised land.
In terms of building some juju, the Bruins have to hope the Blues pull off the comeback out West. Having the spirit of the hockey gods in your corner can never hurt when you’re playing hockey into June.