Patrice Bergeron Bringing Consistent Clutch Play to the Boston Bruins

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Patrice Bergeron Bringing Consistent Clutch Play to the Boston Bruins
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Patrice Bergeron granted the Boston Bruins two go-ahead goals in two scenarios Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia. One came amidst full-fledged hockey action, the other in decisive one-on-ones after overtime.

Although neither lead lasted, Bergeron’s output prolonged a trend that has bolstered the latter half of the team’s 16-game unbeaten streak.

After the Bruins trailed twice, the second-line center granted them their first upper hand of the afternoon at 11:05 of the second period. Bergeron’s 27-foot wrist shot beat goaltender Steve Mason for a 3-2 edge.

That ensured him an eight-game production streak and a seven-game goal-scoring streak. It would have been his third game-winner in that span if not for Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier’s last-minute equalizer.

Come what may, Bergeron personified Boston’s mild stumble less than he did its determined brushoff en route to redress. He led off his team’s half of the ensuing shootout with another successful stab at Mason.

The Bruins never trailed afterward, claiming the lightning round by a 2-1 decision and the game in a 4-3 final. While they bobbled what Bergeron started, they retained the requisite levelheadedness to finish it.

They will need to keep kindling with the same compete level as Bergeron before and after he cools off. Recent results from a team standpoint and the way those results have unfolded are worth keeping as reference points in advance of the playoffs.

Per CSNNE.com reporter Joe Haggerty, the alternate captain and the franchise’s longest-tenured member addressed Boston’s 15-1-1 thrill ride through the month of March. Bergeron, as quoted by Haggerty, said:

It shows a lot for our character. The guys that we have all pulled together and kept getting better. We established a goal after a tough first two games following the Olympics when we were a little tentative, and not playing our game. We just talked about going back to our system, and playing hard. The rest usually takes care of itself. Since (the beginning of March) we’ve been doing that, and we’ve been successful.

Bergeron’s first sentence in that statement could also apply to the fact that the Bruins halted the Flyers’ comeback at the end of regulation.

A last-minute goal in any period can turn its victims to stone, and the Bruins gave up two on Sunday. The other one came off Kimmo Timonen’s twig and gave Philadelphia a 2-1 advantage to take into the first intermission.

Bergeron happened to be on the ice for both of those defensive letdowns, but his own tallies confirmed that neither setback fazed him. Nor did they break the Bruins as a group, as evidenced by Zdeno Chara’s 2-2 equalizer on an early second-period power play.

Knowing who these elastic performances are coming from may be Bruins buffs’ topmost cause for encouragement as their team plows along. As they approach the climactic phases of the campaign, Bergeron is slaking a fastidious appetite for success, and the team is following suit.

His role in Sunday’s scoring stood as a fraternal twin to his contributions to several preceding victories. In four of the five games spanning March 18-27, he inserted the 1-0 icebreaker against New Jersey, Colorado, Phoenix and Chicago.

Owing in part to Bergeron’s Selke-caliber stinginess in their own zone, the Bruins morphed two of those icebreakers into game-winners by blanking the Avalanche and Blackhawks.

The other installment of the five-game stretch in question was Boston’s only non-win from within the past four weeks. The rival Montreal Canadiens squeezed out a 2-1 shootout triumph at the TD Garden last Monday. 

Any recollection as to who tuned the Montreal mesh that night? That would be the only active Bruin who has answered to three head coaches—Mike Sullivan, Dave Lewis and now Claude Julien—in his Boston career.

With 5:26 remaining in regulation, Bergeron deleted a 1-0 deficit that had lived for 47 minutes and 55 seconds of game action. He did it by occupying the slot, serving as the top layer of a screen before goaltender Peter Budaj and deflecting Dougie Hamilton’s power-play point shot home.

His grit and his read on the shot salvaged Boston’s point-getting streak as well as his own. It also started a stretch that culminated in Second Star of the Week accolades from the NHL, as the league declared Monday.

Bergeron bookended the scoring in Boston’s 3-0 triumph over the Blackhawks this past Thursday. After drawing first blood, he drove home the second dose of insurance one faceoff and 13 seconds after Carl Soderberg made it 2-0.

Two days later, in Washington, his assist and goal earned him his second and third power-play points of the week.

Unlike those last-minute strikes from the Flyers on Sunday, those five-on-four conversions lived up to their reputation as game-breakers. As it happened, the Bruins would outscore the Capitals, 2-0, on special teams as part of a 4-2 victory.

That would be the Atlantic Division clincher. In addition, it was the first of back-to-back road matinees, the other one taking place in Philadelphia. 

Given those circumstances, Bergeron and the Bruins could have submitted to human nature and softened their stance on the accelerator. In the aforementioned postgame write-up from Haggerty, Julien even said “There’s no doubt we were running on fumes there at the end” when they let Lecavalier draw the 3-3 knot.

Bergeron’s presence on the ice for that unfavorable equalizer cost him a plus/minus point by day’s end. Yet he would not let that last-minute setback cost his club any points in the standings.

Instead, he finished his celestial week of March 24-30 the same basic way he began it. When it looked like Boston was going to settle for less, he tackled the situation at hand to help secure one more point.

Bergeron is no stranger to clicking in momentous, decisive and/or clutch scenarios.

To start, he converted the pivotal power-play tally against Montreal, ultimately upgrading a surefire regulation loss to a regulation tie. To finish, he delivered in the shootout versus the Flyers, setting the pace for a win rather than a regulation tie.

Granted, there will be no more shootouts in the playoffs. That notwithstanding, this hot streak is inviting parallels to Bergeron’s role in the higher points of the Bruins’ 2013 playoff run.

This resembles the exemplary two-way leader who assisted on one goal in the penultimate minute of regulation, snapped home another in the final minute and buried a sudden-death strike to morph a 4-2 pothole into a 5-4 win in Game 7 against Toronto. The man who raised the upper hand over Pittsburgh to 3-0 with another overtime goal and then assisted on the only goal in a 1-0 win to polish a four-game sweep.

He is honing the same habit in this homestretch, although it will certainly not yield an endless string of duplicates of the past week. But it should set a precedent for consistent efforts from a key Bruins contributor and the Bruins as a whole.

Recognizing, creating, emboldening, stymieing or converting momentum when the situation calls for it. That is how the 10-season veteran Bergeron has fostered his hot streak to Boston’s bountiful benefit.

If he can keep taking that approach to the effect of sporadic clutch eruptions like last week and last spring, the Bruins cannot ask much more of him on offense. They will need the likes of fellow alternate captains and top-nine centers David Krejci and Chris Kelly to earn their respective “As” the same way to ensure the best playoff results.

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.

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