Bergeron taken long road to be one of NHL's best

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Bergeron taken long road to be one of NHL's best

LAS VEGAS, NV -- It's difficult to believe that five years ago some wondered if Patrice Bergeron's career might be over, or at the very least severely compromised because of a concussion that forced him to miss nearly an entire season with the Bruins.

But Bergeron has come back stronger than ever, and he was among the NHL's best at the Wynn Resort and Casino on Tuesday afternoon for the NHL Awards press availability.

Bergeron was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the NHL's best defensive forward, along with St. Louis forward David Backes and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk. It's stiff competition, but Bergeron stands a good shot at his first award after dominating in the face-off circle and finishing among the NHL's top-5 in plusminus this season.

Add that to 20-plus goals and 60-plus points for Bergeron, and it appears that No. 37 is finally ready to move onto the league's radar. He's gone from the NHL's most underrated player to it's most respected two-way center in the span of a year.

All that being said, Bergeron will never place too much value in an individual award whether he wins or loses.

"It's a great honor to be here and the Selke is something that I've always held in high regard," said Bergeron. "But I also don't get too hung up on these awards. I'd take a Stanley Cup over an award any day of the week."

Bergeron battled through a strained oblique during the playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals, and that underscored just how important the center's health is to the team's success. Bergeron couldn't battle at full strength and he couldn't take face-offs, and the Bruins were a lesser team for it.

B's Captain Zdeno Chara has had an appreciation for Bergeron's impact on the team while watching him grow over the years.

"A player like Bergie is somebody that I have the ultimate respect for," said Chara, "He has the kind of ability to be one of the top offensive players in terms of points, but he also understands the importance of playing a two-way game.

"His individual offensive game might suffer a bit while he pays attention to detail on defense, but it's all done in order to make a stronger team. That's what we're all about."

Bergeron has the best chance of any Bruins player to bring home hardware after last season. That's truly saying something given just how many wondered whether Bergeron would ever be able to reach his potential after the course of his career changed so drastically five years ago.

Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

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Haggerty: Bruins say hunger is back, but we must see it on the ice

BRIGHTON – It only amounts to lip service coming in the first few days the Bruins players are simply getting together for informal captain’s practices, but it’s pretty clear the fire is burning brightly after missing the playoffs two years in a row.

For a group that still includes some players that made the playoffs seven seasons in a row, made it to the Cup Finals twice and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011, it feels like that sting of pride is very close to the surface.

Torey Krug wouldn’t even entertain discussion of last season when asked about it following Monday’s skating session at the new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility. David Krejci said he’s officially done talking about winning the Cup five long years ago. Now, it’s about righting the ship for the Bruins, and getting things back moving in a positive, forward progression after moving backwards and sideways over the last two years.

As always, the playmaking Krejci gives a straight, honest take about where the team is on the down side of their Cup years.

“I feel like we’re back to where we started 10 years ago, you know? The teams didn’t make the playoffs, and now we kind of have some new guys. It’s still a good mix with some experienced guys,” said Krejci. “But the hunger, it’s there again. Obviously we haven’t been in the playoffs for a couple of years. It’s exciting times.

“If you go back to 2011 and then to 2013, we were in the Final. But we knew that we had already won two years before. We did try, but you always knew in the back of your mind that you’d already won the Cup. Now, it’s like the Cup is out of the window and that was a long time ago. I’m going to talk about the Cup when I retire, so now we’re all hungry again. We missed the playoffs two years in a row, and it’s a new excitement again. I just can’t wait to get back into it.”

Krejci’s first full season in the NHL was actually the year that the B’s made it back into the postseason in 2007-08, but he was close enough to the organization to see what it was like at the 2006 training camp when a great deal was in flux for the Black and Gold.

It’s not unlike the big changes that the Bruins have seen in the past two years with the hopes that there will start being a payoff in the near future.

It’s exciting for Krejci, in particular, as he should be 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years after surgery on his left hip last spring. A healthy Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will give the Black and Gold their potent 1-2 punch down the middle and there’s also a healthy chip on the shoulder of the B’s defensemen crew after a difficult campaign last year.

Krug admitted as much while brushing off big picture questions about what happened last season, and why this season should be any different for a group of seven defensemen returning from last season’s crew ranked 19th in the league.

“I’m not going to talk about [last year]. We’re moving on. This group will use it as motivation moving forward. With this new practice facility, everybody is excited to get back together and start moving forward,” said Krug. “We have [D-men] pieces in here that maybe people aren’t getting too excited about, but we know what we have in this room. We’ve grown and developed together.

“We know that we’re highly capable of taking whatever is thrown our way. But I know the D-men especially are motivated to prove a lot of people wrong that we’re not ready to compete, and not ready to be a playoff team.”

That’s essentially what it comes down to for the Black and Gold. They can talk about regaining the hunger to compete and utilizing last season’s failures as motivation for this season, but it all amounts to nothing unless they show it on the ice on a consistent basis.

It will be months before everybody truly knows if it’s more than talk from the Bruins and before we learn whether the B’s even have the talent on the roster to truly compete in a difficult, improving Atlantic Division. 

For now, the optimism is running high for the returning Black and Gold players and that registers as something as they slowly ramp up to the start of training camp next month and the season opener on Oct. 13 in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. 

 

Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

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Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”

 

Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

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Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Austin Czarnik.

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