BOSTON – Call it a great performance. Call it the closest thing to hockey perfection you’re likely to find in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Whatever you want to call it, Patrice Bergeron was at the top of his game Monday night in Boston’s 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. The Bruins center scored a power-play goal on a silky smooth play down low with Czech trigger man Jaromir Jagr, amassed a team-high seven shots on net while making himself a steady presence in front of the net, and won an amazing 24-of-28 faceoffs.
To the naked eye, and to those who consider the scoresheet to be the ultimate judge of a player's performance, Bergeron was a Black and Gold boss.
That was clear to his 41-year-old, future Hall of Fame linemate.
“Everybody knows how good he is,” said Jagr. "[But] I’ve never really seen anybody be that hungry in the defensive zone . . . I see a lot of guys hungry the in offensive zone, [but] I think he even likes it more [in the defensive zone]
“He wants to win every battle on the boards, and he’s so responsible back there. Bergy makes it easy for me and [Brad Marchand].”
Bergeron did all of this while also holding Patrick Kane in check for a third straight game, demonstrating the truly high level of play he's displaying right now. Kane looked so shell-shocked in the second period that when a cross-ice pass from Brent Seabrook gave him a wide open shot at the Boston net from the left circle, and he tellingly hesitated before firing the puck into Tuukka Rask’s pads.
That tells you Bergeron and Co. are in the head of Chicago’s most dangerous sniper, and that the Bruins defense is effectively frustrating the Blackhawks players. In some ways, we’re seeing the same looks from their offensive players as we did in the Eastern Conference Finals, when the Penguins players couldn’t gain a foothold.
“We’ve said it a lot, it’s about trusting the system and making sure we have layers, and that we communicate on the ice,” said Bergeron. “I think we definitely got to do that even more against [the Blackhawks]. They have so much talent and great transition.
“There’s some room to get better, but obviously we’ve got to feed off that system and do it to the ‘T’.”
It’s scary to think the Bruins could be even better defensively than they’ve been in the last two rounds, but it also emphatically proves which player is the best two-way center in hockey.
Bergeron, the 2012 Selke Trophy winner, make have been runner-up to Jonathan Toews in this year's Selke voting, but the Bruins sit two wins away from another Stanley Cup championship because Bergeron has been better over the course of the series.
“Nothing surprises me with him,” said Bruins winger Tyler Seguin, who continues to study at the School of Bergeron for his master’s degree in Center 101. “Obviously, he’s one of our biggest leaders. Sometimes it’s not so much words with him, but his actions. You can definitely follow behind him.”
A key component for Bergeron in the leadership category are his actions on the ice, and the Bruins center showed on Monday night why he should be considered one of the best players in the world on an every-year basis: Because he was the best one on the ice for either team in a game that could be a tipping point for the Stanley Cup.