Haggerty: Bergeron's Game 7 for the ages

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Haggerty: Bergeron's Game 7 for the ages

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow@hackswithhaggs
VANCOUVER It was something not many noticed in the hustle and bustle of puffy cigar smoke, delirious Stanley Cup champagne baths and hearty back-slapping. Something thats always a welcome sight in a victorious locker room.

Bruins players milled inside and outside the visiting dressing room at Rogers Arena as they turned hostile territory into their own Lord Stanley-sponsored romper room after the 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7.

Inside the room, players were celebrating with the families that sacrificed so much for them to be in position for their pinnacle moment as a pro hockey players. Early morning wakeup calls for practices and healthy amounts of cash for expensive hockey equipment were finally repaid with one giant party.

The Bruins and their extended entourage toasted each other for a job well done after a grueling 107-game gauntlet that began in the Czech Republic and ended three time zones away from home in British Columbia.

Other Bruins players dutifully performed their media obligations and talked about Game 7 glory with television and radio stations in the afterglow of ultimate victory. All of them spread the Black and Gold gospel to followers that couldnt get enough back in Boston.

Patrice Bergeron was among those players in the cramped hallway, and he was doing what he could to accommodate while battling the exhaustion that was finally overtaking him.

The 25-year-old was so emotionally and physically spent that he couldnt even stand in the hallway while he spoke on the phone, and was instead crumpled up in a ball on his knees fighting dehydration and crushing fatigue after a season of emptying everything he had out on the ice.

Finally Bruins media relations director Matt Chmura pulled the plug when it was clear the weary Bergeron was about to keel over, and the center retreated to get some water back into his dried-up system.

The fatigue was there for good reason. He had just played a game for the ages in the biggest moment of his hockey life.

The young center was born a winner and a champion in the sport of hockey the evidence beginning when he surprisingly cracked the Bruins roster as an 18-year-old afterthought in his first NHL training camp.

Bergeron has gone on to win a World Junior Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal -- he was handpicked by Team Canada's manager Steve Yzerman for the Olympics in Vancouver expressly because of his winning skills.

Now he can add Stanley Cup champion to that glossy list of team accomplishments.

Its amazing, said Bergeron. We knew that we could do it all year, and we never stopped believing in ourselves. This was for the city of Boston. Yes, we won it for ourselves. But this was also about bringing the Cup back to the city of Boston.

We werent satisfied with three wins. We learned that the hard way over the last couple of years.

Theres an old hockey clich that the teams best players show up in their biggest games, and No. 37 certainly looked like a captain, a leader, and one of the Bs best players in a Game 7 performance nobody will soon forget.

Bergeron came out of the gate firing while some of his teammates started a little tentatively in the opening minutes of the pressure-packed finale, and he set the tone for others to follow as a true leader would and should.

He finished every check with a surliness that heightened as the Bs crept closer to securing the 35-pound Cup, and he was making a physical statement that he wanted the rest of his teammates to mimic his lead. Shawn Thornton was the other player setting a punishing tone in the early moments of Game 7, and pretty soon the rest of their teammates caught on.

Bergeron and linemate Brad Marchand a tandem that should be skating together in Black and Gold for many, many moons after gelling as Bostons most complete line in January pounded the Sedins and Alex Burrows in the decisive playoff game. Just for kicks, they also routinely turned around the beleaguered defensemen pairing of Sami Salo and Christian Ehrhoff, getting themselves into the offensive act.

Bergeron finished with a team-best plus-4, doled out five registered hits and potted two goals in Game 7 after spending much of the series shadowing the Sedins in a defensive role.

Rather than spending every waking second on the ice thinking defense at all times with Vancouvers best offensive players on the ice, Bergeron and Co. attacked the defensively suspect Wonder Twins and saddled them with a combined minus-7 in the deciding Stanley Cup game.

Bergeron ended with 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) in 23 games for the Bruins along with a plus-15 while missing a pair of contests with a minor concussion.

That secondary scoring is huge in the series like this, said Bruins president Cam Neely. Bergies line played fantastic in Game 7 and they played great all series even though they dont always show up on the scoresheet. It was the little things that they did.

Hes a very quiet leader and an emotional player. But Bergeron cares a great deal and its great for other younger players in our organization to watch a guy like Patrice. The work ethic he has . . . the commitment that he has. You could say it about a lot of the guys in our lineup, but Patrice is a true professional.

The first Bergeron goal was a thing of beauty, with the faceoff maestro winning a draw to Marchand -- Bergeron finished the playoffs winning 60.2 percent of his draws and taking nearly every important one in the last two rounds of the postseason -- then heading straight to the left post for a masterful pass through heavy traffic in front of the net.

Bergeron simply beat a napping group of Canucks to the front of the net and shoveled the Marchand pass off the left pipe and into the net before Roberto Luongo awakened from his snooze in the paint.

Bergerons second goal was a short-handed dagger in the second period, and revealed every shred of intelligence, skill and tenacity that brings to the Black and Gold.

The center read an errant pass off the boards in the defensive zone while killing the only power play of the game, and managed to knife through Ehrhoff and Salo on a bull rush to the Vancouver net.

It appeared that Luongo simply gave up on the play as Bergeron crashed down on the Vancouver net, and the puck went past the unmoving goaltender. It was a classic example of the approaches to Game 7 taken by a pair of very different Quebecois.

Bergeron always dreamed hed find a way to make that play, and it appears Luongo secretly hoped hed never have to make that save when it really counted. One is a Stanley Cup champions mentality; the other, well, its not even close.

The Bergeron score was Bostons third shorthanded goal of the Stanley Cup Final in the ultimate special teams triumph over the two power-play goals in 30 tries for the highly-reputed Canucks PP.

In a heart-filled, pressurized hockey game that demanded everything out of every Bruins player out on the ice, Bergeron rose to the front of the NHLs best and brightest in the ultimate moment of his career.

There were more than a couple in a Boston uniform, but Patrice Bergeron is one of the big winners in these playoffs.

Nothing's guaranteed, but there should be plenty more to come for Bergeron, who is in the middle of a still-young body of work. One thing's for sure, his newly-minted Stanley Cup defining moment will be remembered fondly in his second home of Boston for a long, long time to come.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.

Sunday, May 21: Has Kessel changed?

Sunday, May 21: Has Kessel changed?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while finding it unbelievable that some people are questioning the heart of Isaiah Thomas at this point.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur with a column on Phil Kessel playing all of his cards right with the Penguins. It’s something he never did in an untenable Toronto situation where he and Dion Phaneuf were expected to be franchise players instead of the “third banana” type roles they were meant for on good teams with Ottawa and Pittsburgh.

That was very clear when he was with the Bruins early in his career, was not a good match with the hearty crew that ended up winning a Cup in 2011 and basically didn’t want to play for Claude Julien anymore after just three seasons. It was more clear when he pulled the same reluctant public figure card as Toronto’s high-paid star forward in the NHL’s biggest media market, and never did more than put up his numbers. Now in Pittsburgh he’s clearly well behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the pecking order, plays in a place where he can fade into the background a little bit without too many problems and a lot of his eccentricities are viewed as charming, or Phil being Phil, rather than Kessel being viewed as a bit of an odd duck or a malcontent.

But to this Bruins writer he’ll always be the guy that clashed with Julien over the stick that he preferred to use, clashed with Zdeno Chara on the ice for his work habits and was ultimately a player that wasn’t very popular at all in the Bruins dressing room despite the obvious talent and the courageous battle with cancer he waged during his first year in Boston. He’s obviously matured and is more well-rounded in some ways than his Boston days, but in many ways he’s the exact same Phil that doesn’t want to change for anybody or anything.

*Here’s the New York Islanders season in review after disappointing with a failure to get into the playoffs, and a big situation coming up with John Tavares.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen done for the playoffs after being diagnosed with “acute compartment syndrome.” What a big blow to the Predators.  

*The Ottawa Senators are still looking to push the Penguins to the brink in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s obviously going to be a difficult task for them.

*Don Cherry and Ron MacLean had their Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada this weekend, and tackled some hot topics like the Nashville crowd throwing a dead duck on the ice.

*Ryan Getzlaf addresses the fine from the NHL for using a vulgar slur on the ice, apparently aimed at nobody in particular according to the player.

*Here’s a set of statistics that effectively sums up the pathetic regular season put forth by the Colorado Avalanche.

*For something completely different: In an interesting rumor, the Mr. Robot show creator is apparently in talks on an Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone movie.