Could be Bergeron's year for the Selke Trophy

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Could be Bergeron's year for the Selke Trophy

UNIONDALE, NY Two years ago Pavel Datsyuk took home the Selke Trophy for the third time. Last season it was Vancouver center Ryan Keslers turn to accept the award for the best defensive forward in the NHL.

Coming off a Stanley Cup-winning season and enjoying his best offensive season since the horrendous concussion that nearly derailed his entire career, it would seem this year its Patrice Bergerons turn to accept a Selke.

All three of last years finalists for the award -- Datsyuk, Kesler and Jonathan Toews -- have struggled through injuries this season that have kept them from operating at their level-best.

Meanwhile Bergeron has been arguably the best two-way center in the NHL this season with good health, good defense and better linemates feeding him scoring opportunities. He hit the 60-point mark this season for the first time since 2006-07, and hes now put together back-to-back 20 goal seasons.

Most Selke winners also have to be productive in the offensive end to merit the kind of attention needed to win the award. Bergeron has been just that.

Those that know Bergeron best know the Selke Trophy is the most personally meaningful individual award he could win. Why? It all comes back to his pride in the defensive end.

Im just trying to do all the little details to help my team win. Even if not everybody sees it Im trying to help my team win every night. It starts on the defensive side and then it takes care of things in the offensive zone, said Bergeron. I havent really thought about the Selke. Its nice to hear because it means Im doing some things right, but all those individual awards come down to your teammates.

Last year was the ultimate prize that we won together. I wouldnt trade that any year for a Selke Trophy. Its nice because it means Im doing my job and I need to just keep doing that.

Bergeron finished fourth in the voting last season, and the admittedly difficult criteria can always confound the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) voters trying to determine the best defensive forward in the league. Much of it comes down to face-off percentage, short-handed time on ice, plus-minus and other statistical minutiae, but perhaps the biggest factor going is simple reputation.

That can take years to build into an award-worthy attribute, and Bergeron is at that level while becoming one of the faces the NHL is trying to market to the public.

He was the focus of an NHL 36 special on the NBC Sports Network designed to underscore just how underrated a player Bergeron is. His teammates knew of his importance long before that, though. In the Bruins locker room, its a no-brainer: Bergeron's play has definitely been worthy of a Selke.

He always seems to be in the right position and he always makes the little plays game in and game out that a player of his caliber doesnt really have to make, said Chris Kelly, a great two-way center in his own right. Thats what makes him such a great player -- his attention to detail all over the ice. He pays attention with the same focus in all three zones on the ice.

To me hes the best two-way player in the game and I get to see him on a daily basis. Im a better player just for getting the chance to watch and play with him every day.

Theres also no denying the statistics are there for Bergeron. He leads the NHL in plusminus with a plus-35 mark heading into Sunday nights tilt against the New York Rangers, and hes achieved that mark with a pair of young wingers (Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin) alongside him for the majority of the year.

Customarily Bergeron and Co. gets the draw of shutting down the other teams best forward line, and that makes their plusminus numbers all the more impressive. Bergeron hasnt missed a game this season and has been at the heart of another excellent defensive campaign for the entire hockey club.

With our system theres no blowout out of the zone or cheating. Hes often the last one of the defensive zone, or the second-to-last one out, said Kelly. But he still manages to create a lot of offense in the system. Its a lot of skating. Hes working every single night. Its not like there are easy nights where hes cheating like some other guys in the league do that recognized a little more for their offensive numbers.

Joe Pavelski and Toews are the only two face-off men with a slightly higher percentage than Bergerons 59.2 percent success rate, but No. 37 has taken a much larger number of draws over the course of the season.

Bergerons 1,582 draws are nearly twice as many as Pavelski, and more than 400 above Toews total as the Chicago captain has missed time with a concussion suffered earlier this season. In fact nobody in the NHLs top ten in face-offs is anywhere close to the nearly 1,600 draws taken by Bergeron. Only Eric Staal, Jason Spezza and Tomas Plekanec have taken more face-offs then Bergeron this season with a much lower percentage of wins.

Its not unusual for Claude Julien to use Bergeron for nearly every big face-off within a given game, and then make the change once his reliable center has won the puck back to his teammates.

Thats exactly the kind of trait Selke Trophy winners are known for, and it's Bergerons bread and butter.

Given his numbers, and his undeniably growing reputation, there may be no better season for the two-way center to haul in the coveted Selke.

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

Ravens safety Weddle was interested in joining Patriots before landing in Baltimore

FOXBORO – Back in March, Eric Weddle batted his eyes longingly at the Patriots. The two-time All-Pro safety’s time was done with the Chargers and he wanted to spend his NFL autumn with a team that had a chance to win it all. 

He didn’t land in New England, but he didn’t too badly, winding up with the usually competitive Ravens.  

On a Thursday conference call with New England media, Weddle confirmed that there was mutual interest expressed. 

“Obviously, I was interested,” he acknowledged. “I have nothing but high regard, respect and admiration – and envy, quite honestly – of the success of the New England Patriots over the years. Obviously, battling them in my career, it’s always been a great game. I love the way they play, love the foundation, love everything about it. It was definitely on my radar. There were talks both ways, it just didn’t end up [working out].”

The numbers massed at the position with Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon played a role in the two sides not being able to reach accord, according to Weddle. 

“I’m good buddies with Patrick Chung,” he said. “I grew up playing with him and Devin [McCourty] is one of the best to play, so I don’t know if it would have worked out personnel-wise. But obviously, I could have seen myself fitting in there seamlessly.”

Weddle’s New England attraction apparently wasn’t love that bloomed late in his career. Toward the end of his conference call, Weddle said, “I’m still wondering why they just didn’t draft me in ’07; I could have been still playing there now.”

As reporters puzzled for a moment trying to recall the 2007 first-rounder, Weddle chipped in with the answer: “[They took] Brandon Meriweather.”

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

Khudobin simply ‘has got to be better’ for Bruins

BOSTON – There wasn’t much for Anton Khudobin to say after it was all over on Thursday night. 

The B’s backup netminder allowed four goals on 22 shots while looking like he was fighting the puck all night. It was one of the big reasons behind a tired-looking 4-2 loss to the lowly Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

The loss dropped Khudobin to 1-4-0 on the season and puts him at a 3.02 goals-against average and .888 save percentage this season. Three of the four goals beat Khudobin despite him getting a pretty good look at them. The ultimate game-winner in the second period from John Mitchell just beat him cleanly on the short side. 

Matt Duchene beat Khudobin from the slot on a play that was a bad defense/bad goaltending combo platter to start the game and MacKinnon ripped a shorthanded bid past the Bruins netminder to put Boston in a hole against a woeful Colorado team. 

Afterward, Khudobin didn’t have much to say, with just one good performance among five games played for the Black and Gold this season. 

“Four goals is too much. That’s it,” said a to-the-point Khudobin, who was then asked how he felt headed into the game. “I don’t know; too much energy…yeah, too much. I don’t know. I just had a lot of energy and I think it just didn’t work out my way.”

Khudobin didn’t really expand on why he had too much energy, but perhaps it’s because the compacted schedule has really curtailed the team’s ability to hold team practices on a regular basis. Or maybe he was just disappointed it took him a week to get back between the pipes after playing his best game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Either way Claude Julien said that the Bruins needed better goaltending on a night where they weren’t at their sharpest physically or mentally, and Khudobin clearly wasn’t up to the challenge this time around. 

“We needed some saves tonight and we didn’t get them. He’s got to be better. A lot of things here that we can be better at and take responsibility [for],” said Julien. “But at the same time, you got to move on here. To me it’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, and we would have had a chance. Now we’ve got to move forward.”

Clearly, the Bruins have no choice but to move on with a busy schedule that doesn’t let up anytime soon, but one of the lessons learned from Thursday night is that the Bruins need to get better backup goaltending from a collective crew (Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban included) that’s won just once in eight games behind Tuukka Rask this season.