Bergeron concussion tempers B's celebration

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Bergeron concussion tempers B's celebration

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. It seems the poor Bruins cant catch a break even when things are trending their way.

The Bs hit the24-hour pause buttonSaturday after completing a four-game sweep of the Flyers on Friday night. But even being four wins away from the Stanley Cup Finals couldnt be fully absorbed and enjoyed as it should have been.

While the Bruins were shaking hands with the Flyers on the TD Garden ice, Patrice Bergeron was undergoing neurological evaluations and fighting that same familiar, sickening foggy feeling that creeps into a brain after traumatic injury.

Bergeron has been diagnosed with the third concussion of his NHL career after catching a Claude Giroux shoulder hit to the head in the third period that was clearly on the "late" side. Its been deemed a mild concussion, according to the Bruins medical staff.

But nothing is mild about a 25-year-old center with the brightest of hockeyfutures now enduring his third concussion over the last four seasons. Theres no way of knowing when Bostons best two-way player will be ready to play again, and that's a huge problem.

The first horrific concussion, when he was boarded by the Flyers' Randy Jones, caused Bergeron to miss nearly all of 2007-08. His collision with with future teammate Dennis Seidenberg a year later against the Carolina Hurricanes wiped him out of action for a month.

To Bergerons credit, he battled back and scored 22 goals this season, his best offensive output since his career was nearly ended by the first Grade IIIconcussion. But all ofthat is now on hold againfor the time being as the B's center waits for his head to stop spinning.

The Bruins have unfortunateexperience with players recovering from a concussion, and for that reason theywont rush Bergeron back before the symptoms have completely gone away. Bergeron is also a smart young man that's been through hell and back with head injuries, and won't be foolishly putting his quality of life at risk despite the lure of the playoffs.

It might be time to make peace with the realisticpossibility Bergeron has played his last game of the year, though the possibility exists a mild concussion actually lives up to its name for the first time in history. The word "mild" really only applies to concussions when the person using it has never actually had one before.

Whenever you take someone like that out of the lineup, you obviously see you are missing a key character component, a key leadership component, said general manager Peter Chiarelli. But what I have seen from this team toward the end of the regular season -- and especially after the first two games against Montreal (a pair of home-ice losses to the Canadiens, which have been followed by eight wins in the last nine games) -- is that there has been a real kind of growing, bonding and chemistry.

There are guys who have been stepping up. Ive heard, I wont mention names, but some of the guys have been stepping up in the room and I think you will fill those voids with those guys.

Bergeron is one point behind Ryan Kesler and Marty St. Louisat the top of theplayoff scoring list after 11 games, and was clearly a strong candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy until Giroux slammed him in the head.

Bergeron has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in 11 games, has won more than 64 percent of his faceoffs, and his line (which includes Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi) is at a combined plus-25. The Bs center is averaging the second-most ice time among Bruins forwards with 19:02 per game, and has shut down responsibility when it comes to taking on the other team's best offensive trio.

To say that Bergeron's trio had been the most dominant line in the entire Stanley Cup playoffs this season wouldnt have been hyperbole or anything less than truth. There's simply no way to replace No. 37 in the B's lineup no matter what offensive dazzle 19-year-old Tyler Seguin can bring to the table in his place.

It got pretty heated in the Bruins management box in the minutes following Bergerons exit from the ice given the tardy nature of Giroux' hit . . . and the potential dire effects on the team, should Bergerons absence be longer than the 7-14 days -- and first couple of games against the Lightning --the medical staff is hoping for.

The truth is that given Bergerons past history with a pair of major concussions there's no telling how long the 25-year-old center will be out of the lineup. Recovery from brain injuries is strictlyon a case-by-case basis, and theres no way of knowing exactly when a player can return to a heightened competitiveatmosphere like the playoffs.

Parts of this year Bergeron has been just as good, or better, than he has been in the playoffs. But yeah, he is making his plays with more certainty, said Chiarelli. He is more confident physically. Most nights he has extra jump in his step and when he does that he is attacking with the puck rather than just dishing. He has been really good.

You tend to forget he is quite young and you guys may see this in the room when you are there or not, but his presence is growing there. To me thats maturity and it is showing in his game as well.

So the Bruins will be missing their leading scorer and best two-way player for at least the first couple of games against Tampa Bay, and perhaps the entire Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning.

Dont forget that Sidney Crosby was first diagnosed with a mild concussion in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, and hasnt played since.

The Bruins are hoping with all their might Bergeron doesnt turn into another Crosby tale, because that would be way too much to bear.

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

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

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Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

BOSTON -- The Bruins locked up a piece to a blue line that was godawful last season in announcing they’d signed Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract.

They also retained one of their own young restricted free agents, center Seth Griffith, by reaching agreement on a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL value of $625,000 per season.

Miller, 28, played in a career-high 71 games last season -- his third with the Bruins -- and established career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He also posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team (plus-15) and generally seemed to be playing his best hockey down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miller was also forced into playing 19:04 of ice time per night while oftentimes serving as a top-pair D-man alongside Zdeno Chara. That resulted in a high number of mistakes and turnovers at critical times against the opposition’s best offensive players.

The rugged, hardnosed Miller obviously isn’t going to be judged solely by the numbers. He's also evaluated by the big hits, blocked shots and air of intimidation in the defensive zone. That said, a four-year contract is a bit of a head-scratcher, given that Miller wasn’t expected to command that kind of deal as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.

That four-year deal, which carries a yearly cap hit of $2.5 million, would also seem to hint at the impending exodus of Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg, or both, given the number of limited stay-at-home defensemen on the roster now making decent NHL money.  

The bottom line: Miller’s contract will be a good one if he can settle into a steady, top-four role. But it will be another overpay if he winds up being the bottom-pairing D-man many see him as at the NHL level.

Griffith had 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins last season, and also had an assist in four games for Boston. He'll get another chance this year to compete for one of the winger jobs at the NHL level with plenty of competition.

Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

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Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”

*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.

*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.

*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.

*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.

*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.

*For something completely different: Chewbacca Mom visited with James Corden on late night television, and the results were both funny and kind of heartwarming.