BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron wasn’t present at Tuesday afternoon’s practice at TD Garden, but he was still the talk of team after the final tune-up prior to tomorrow night’s game vs. the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. Bergeron was scheduled to meet up with the Bruins at the airport prior to the charter to Buffalo as he caught up on rest after traveling back from Sochi this weekend.
It was a respite well deserved after Bergeron finished off a gold medal effort for Team Canada by playing a key role on a forward line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and finished with two assists and a plus-4 in six games for what some are calling “the best Canadian Olympic hockey team of all time.”
Claude Julien was understandably gushing about Bergeron after serving as an assistant head coach, and getting a front row seat to his star center’s efforts.
“He was one of our best players, and I’m not afraid to say that,” said Julien. “His line in that first game – with [Jamie] Benn and [John] Tavares – was probably our best line, and he was playing so well that he ended up with the [Sidney] Crosby Line. He really brought some good stability to that line.
“They were much better from that moment on. He made a lot of highlight clips in our reviews just by how hard he worked on both sides of the coin: defensively, offensively and creating turnovers on the fore-check and back-checking. He’s such a complete player, and it was nice to see him viewed that way on a bigger stage.”
Team Canada’s coaching staff seemed to spend most of the tournament trying to find a linemate for Crosby before settling on Bergeron, who skated with Sid the Kid on their World Junior team along with Corey Perry.
“He’s not Crosby in most people’s minds, but when the puck is dropped you can even ask Sid . . . Sid loves playing with him,” said Julien. “They played together in Worlds, and World Junior championships. He just loves playing with him, and he’s got a great appreciation for [Bergeron].”
Brad Marchand knows firsthand how great that Bergeron is on a daily basis, and has seen the offensive instincts, defensive grit and dominant face-off abilities that come along with No. 37 every time he puts on a hockey sweater. The gold medals and trophies – whether it’s the Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs or World Junior championships – seem to come right along for Bergeron everywhere he plays.
“You need guys like that to win, and you saw how well he played in the Olympics,” said Marchand. “It just shows he’s a winner. A lot of it starts behind the scenes. They don’t see everything he does, and how hard he works to get ready for every game. The way he treats his body with nutrition and sleep, you can tell that he wants to win every single game.
“He’s just a natural born leader and winner. He’s won every possible medal and trophy that I think you can win. He’s an exceptional player; one that you love to play with, and hate to play against. We’re lucky to have him, for sure.”
But then it’s that way for a number of the Team Canada players. Amazingly, Jonathan Toews has two Gold Medals, two Stanley Cup championships and a pair of World Junior Gold Medals at the age of 25 years old. Whether it’s Bergeron, Toews, Crosby or Ryan Getzlaf, Team Canada has an overwhelming number of two-way centers that defend, score, control the puck and – most importantly – just win at every level they play.