Stanley Cup 2013: Why Patrice Bergeron Is Boston Bruins' Most Important Skater

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Stanley Cup 2013: Why Patrice Bergeron Is Boston Bruins' Most Important Skater

Even casual fans know that Patrice Bergeron is the heart and soul of the Boston Bruins.

Two years ago, they won the Stanley Cup by beating the Vancouver Canucks on the road in the seventh game. In that 4-0 victory, Bergeron became the first Bruins player to score a Stanley Cup-winning goal since Bobby Orr accomplished that feat in 1972.

Bergeron would go on to add a shorthanded goal in that game, and that tells part of the story of what makes him so valuable to the Bruins.

He can do anything that head coach Claude Julien asks of any of his players, and he is probably the best at each of those tasks. That's why his absence from the Bruins lineup for all but a few seconds after the end of the first period in Game 5 was such a huge loss for the team.

There has been little information on the specifics of what caused Bergeron to leave the game and head to a Chicago hospital Saturday night, but the Bruins did say that the star center was allowed to fly home with the rest of the team Sunday morning.

Head coach Claude Julien assessed Bergeron's status as being "day-to-day" upon returning to Boston Sunday afternoon, according to this tweet from NHL.com writer Dan Rosen.

His status for Game 6 on Monday night has not been determined, but if he cannot play, the Bruins will be a weaker team and will find it much harder to compete in their must-win game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins trail the Stanley Cup Final 3-2.

Bergeron has been the team's leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Final with four goals. Bergeron is usually just as happy to set up his linemates or the Bruins' hard-shooting defensemen as he is to take shots himself. However, he has sensed the Bruins' need for scoring in this series, and he has been shooting and finding the range.

He has been particularly effective on the power play with three man-advantage goals. That is especially important to the Bruins because they have struggled with the power play in so many playoff series in recent years. They are 4-for-14 against the Blackhawks.

Bergeron is also one of the Bruins' most accurate passers. This manifests itself in his ability to set up teammates for good scoring attempts, but it also helps them get the puck out of their own zone when they are attempting to transition from defense to offense. That's especially important against a fast team like the Blackhawks.

Few forwards play defense like Bergeron does. He won the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward in 2011-12, and he was a finalist for the honor this year.

Playing defense does not just mean blanketing the opposing team's center. In Bergeron's case, it means getting in the passing and shooting lanes and anticipating what is coming next. He is able to do this because he is thinking the game along with his opponents.

Bergeron is one of the team's most skilled players on offense and defense. He is a stellar power play contributor and one of their best penalty killers.

Bergeron is excellent in all areas on the ice, but he is without peer in the face-off circle. Bergeron has been dominating the draws, winning 61.9 percent of those puck battles in the playoffs. He won 62.1 percent of his face-offs during the regular season.

This is one of the most underrated statistics in the league. When a center wins a face-off, his team has possession. When his team has possession, it can attack the net and score goals. When it does not have possession, the opposition can attack their net.

Bergeron's ability to use leverage in the face-off circle and gain an edge is vital against the Chicago Blackhawks, probably the league's best puck-possession team.

Bergeron's ability to win and steal draws can keep the speedy Blackhawks from mounting offensive forays in the Boston zone.

Boston center Rich Peverley explained how valuable is to the Bruins. “You can’t replace a guy like that,” Peverley told Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe. “He’s one of the best players in the league at what he does. Obviously, we need other guys to step up.”

If Bergeron is unable to play, the Bruins would feel his absence throughout the game. However, they are a team of very accomplished players and excellent depth. They are returning home to the TD Garden in a do-or-die situation.

It is not inconceivable that they could find a way to win the game and extend the series to seven games, especially if Jonathan Toews is not at full strength.

Toews got hammered by Johnny Boychuck in the second period of Game 5 and did not play in the third period. He sat on the Chicago bench throughout the final 20 minutes.

Bruins center David Krejci told Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald that the team obviously needs Bergeron but will do everything it can to get to the seventh game.

You don’t want to see one of your best players go down, especially at this time of the year. We definitely missed him, especially at the end of the game when we needed to score a goal. But you know what? It is what it is. I don’t know how he feels right now. I don’t know if he’ll play. But we really need him. If not, we’re going to fight, we’re going to (do) everything we can to try and force a Game 7.

But if the Bruins are going to win their second Stanley Cup championship in three years by coming back from the 3-2 deficit, they almost certainly need to have Bergeron in the lineup for a seventh game.

Winning the sixth and seventh games without him would be very difficult to accomplish. He is the Bruins' best player and one of the most underappreciated stars in the league.

 

Steve Silverman is a credentialed reporter covering the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago for Bleacher Report.

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