TAMPA – Patrice Bergeron had been solid throughout the first few weeks of the season, but the 28-year-old center hadn’t been dominant for a number of reasons.
A deliberate start to the season was expected after all of the bumps, bruises and injuries sustained during last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, and he’s been attempting to gel with new teammates on his line. It was thought Bergeron would only have to initiate Eriksson into the Bruins way of doing things, but now Reilly Smith has tagged along as a new winger as well.
So the one goal and three points in six games was a decent start to a season full of challenges, but the real No. 37 showed up to lead the Bruins to a 5-0 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Bergeron potted a second period goal and had a team-high six of Boston’s 22 shots on goal while generating a mammoth 11 shot attempts on the evening.
“It was a good game. We all played solidly, and that helps everybody when we do that. I’ve felt really good in Florida, and tonight I felt pretty good,” said Bergeron. “We generated a lot of plays by playing solid defense.”
The goal was the kind of play Bergeron’s line wants to draw up on the dry erase board: a careless play by Tampa Bay led to Smith intercepting the pass at the defensive blue line, and Smith worked a give-and-go up the ice with Eriksson before finding Bergeron as the trailer.
The Bergeron shot rocketed past Ben Bishop to make it a 3-0 lead in the second period, and Chris Kelly scored 51 seconds later to chase the Tampa Bay goaltender out of the game. It was the kind of defense into offense play that the Bruins have specialized in over the years.
“It’s new guys coming in, and it’s an adjustment. I feel like with each game we’re getting even better on the ice,” said Bergeron. “It’s clicked really well with Reilly, who is really using his speed well. We’re more used to playing together, me and Loui, and we’re creating more plays off the forecheck and out of transition from our zone going into offense.”
The offense came along with a 13-for-25 performance in the face-off circle and his customary defense shutting down an excellent Tampa Bay offensive machine in a 20:25 of ice time on a team-high 30 shifts. After it was over, Claude Julien sounded like a hockey coach that had just watched some vintage Bergeron as he’s become accustomed to over the years in Boston.
“I really liked [Bergeron’s] game tonight. When you look at him with his linemates, they’re finding each other a little more now,” said Claude Julien. “They’ve been spending a lot more time in the offensive zone controlling the puck, and that’s the chemistry that we were hoping to see as we play more games.”
It’s no secret that once Bergeron starts playing the way he did on Saturday night against Tampa Bay, plenty of things start taking care of themselves for the Black and Gold as they did vs. the Lightning.