2011 NHL Playoffs: Patrice Bergeron Is the Boston Bruins' Center of Attention
"...he’s a really strong two-way player. And he’s great in the face-off circles, a great penalty killer, a great PP guy and he plays in every situation...And he’s a big part of our team and we’re going to need him to keep playing big and keep doing what he does."
Patrice Bergeron is 25-years-old and already in his seventh season with the Boston Bruins.
Bergeron was chosen in the second round (45th overall) of a solid 2003 NHL Entry Draft class. Other players chosen in the second round that year included Nashville's Shea Weber, Dallas' Loui Eriksson, St. Louis' David Backes, Chicago's Corey Crawford and Detroit's Jimmy Howard, to name a few.
Known more for his defensive capabilities than his offensive exploits, Bergeron has scored a total of 121 goals and 216 assists for 337 points in 456 career games. Of the 44 players selected ahead of Bergeron in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, only eight have scored more points during their NHL careers.
In international play, the native of L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec has represented Canada on four occasions: the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, 2005 World Junior Championships, 2006 World Championships and 2010 Winter Olympics.
In three of those four tournaments, he helped his team win gold medals.
During his career with Boston, Bergeron has matured from a reliable center who could be counted on for stopping the other teams' top lines from scoring and has become the leader of the Bruins offense, which he has done without sacrificing defense. This is evidenced in the club's 2010-2011 statistics, where the crafty pivot finished third in scoring with 57 points. He finished the season with a plus/minus rating with a plus-20. Bergeron also knows he is more important to his team on the ice than in the penalty box, as his 26 penalty minutes prove.
You will rarely see the young man commit a penalty that is of the lazy variety such as holding, hooking or tripping.
When the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs began, Bergeron was expected to be a leader on the ice for Boston. He has not disappointed.
In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens, Bergeron scored two goals and five assists for seven points in the seven game series. He took 27 shots on goal while he finished the series with a plus/minus rating of plus-5.
In the Bruins' four-game sweep of Philadelphia, Bergeron had five assists, one of which came on the game-tying goal in Game 2. He also sent eight shots at Flyers goaltenders. His plus-2 continued to show his strong defensive play, as well.
Unfortunately, the man known as Bergey to his teammates, suffered a minor concussion in the third period of Game 4, but his contributions to the sweep of last year's Stanley Cup finalist helped put an end to the "choker" moniker his team carried after losing a 3-0 series lead over these same Philadelphia Flyers in last year's Stanley Cup Playoff Eastern Conference Semifinal.
That concussion would see Boston begin the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning without Bergeron, who by this point, had solidified his leadership role with the club on and off the ice with his consistent and reliable play combined with his encouraging voice in the dressing room.
After watching his team split the first two games of the series at home, Bergeron rejoined his mates on the ice for Game 3 in Tampa. The center logged 19:31 of ice time in Boston's 2-0 victory. Although he did not figure in the scoring, Bergeron had two shots on goal. He was stellar in the face-off circle, winning 18 of 28 face-offs.
It was clear the strong skating center was feeling fine and ready for whatever the Lightning threw his way. In the following three games, Bergey has accumulated two goals and one assist for three points.
As in the Philadelphia series, he has eight shots on goal. His plus-2, once again, exhibits his focus and diligence on the defensive side of the puck. In the face-off circle he has won 35 out of 66 face offs for a success rate of 53 percent.
Games 4, 5 and 6 saw the teams battle back and forth in a high scoring series which contained many highs and lows for both sides. After six games, the series is tied at three wins apiece. Game 7 (Friday May 27, 2011 in Boston) will decide who will go on to meet the Western Conference Champion Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Patrice Bergeron has been Boston's most consistent player throughout the playoffs. His strong play in all three zones and on face-offs in conjunction with his timely goals and assists will be needed in Game 7 if the Bruins are to move on to oppose Vancouver.
If Boston does, indeed, get to the next and final round of the playoffs, the Bruins and their fans will be counting on Bergeron to continue bringing his skills and leadership to the rink.
There is no doubt, he will not disappoint, which could bring Bergeron another on-ice honor: being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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