Bergeron concussion tempers B's celebration


Bergeron concussion tempers B's celebration

By Joe Haggerty

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 Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Saturday, Oct. 22: Coyotes' growing pains


Saturday, Oct. 22: Coyotes' growing pains

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while suffering from the same “general soreness” as Tuukka Rask.

*The Arizona Coyotes are suffering from growing pains that were extremely evident during a winless road trip.

*Steve Dangle is obviously jacked and pumped about his Maple Leafs, but wondering about the future of Roman Polak. But aren’t we all at this point?

*Old friends Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg both scored the victorious Islanders in a Friday night win.

*Clarke MacArthur isn’t ready to retire even as concussion issues are really starting to impact his ability to stay on the ice.

*Teemu Selanne gives fellow Finn Patrick Laine a thumbs up as he was in town for events with his former Winnipeg Jets.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the details on noted Bruins killer Dale Weise getting suspended for three games after some dirty activity with the Philadelphia Flyers.

*For something completely different: Geoff Edgers has been trying to reach Bill Murray for weeks, and here’s what happened when he finally called back.


Bruins looking for a lift from stagnant power play


Bruins looking for a lift from stagnant power play

BRIGHTON, Mass. – One area where the Bruins are looking for more after a mostly positive first four regular-season games: the power play.

The B’s are a downright gross 1-for-14 on the man-advantage to start the season and were 0-for-4 on Thursday night while squeaking out a last-minute win over the New Jersey Devils. The early-season 7.1 percent success rate doesn’t have them last in the NHL, but only the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames have performed at a lower PP clip.

It’s a subject that Claude Julien knew was coming from the B’s media, and so he was ready to answer for it ahead of Saturday night’s rivalry renewal with the Montreal Canadiens.

“I knew it was just a matter of time before that question came. It is what it is. I think we had some opportunities, but we haven’t finished,” said Julien. “At the end of the day our power play is judged by whether you score or not, and I thought our second period [vs. the Devils] wasn’t great. But our third period had some really good power plays, but we didn’t manage to score.

“Where we need to get to right now [on the power play], is to find a way to finish. There’s no doubt the absence of Patrice Bergeron there brings somebody else in, and maybe there’s not as much chemistry as we’re used to. But I think with him back now we can even be better, and get a little more movement…not be so stagnant. When we struggle a bit it’s because we’re a little stagnant, and we need to get a little better there.”

Quite a bit of the struggles go back to Bergeron missing the first three games of the season and the top power-play unit missing No. 37 from his trademark bumper role at the center of the PP action. The power play remained scoreless as the unit adjusted to Bergeron's return on Thursday night, but it seemed that things started to click a little bit as that game went on.

“It’s not moving right now. We’ll just work through it. There were times last year where it let us down, and there were times last year where it helped us through some tough moments,” said Torey Krug of the PP. “Right now we’re able to play through it, but at some point this team is going to need this PP to step up and score some goals. We rely on that, and the guys on the power play take a lot of pride in it.

“[Bergeron] does a lot of things for us. Instead of me having to go all the way to the other end to break the puck out where I’m losing 20 seconds and frankly it’s tiring to break the puck out, now we have him winning face-offs and we’re starting with the puck in the zone. That’s a big thing, and he collects puck like nobody else in the league. With him back on the power play it brings another important player to the forefront, but it’s a five man unit and when everything’s working out there [on the PP] we have a good unit.”

Now with Ryan Spooner expected to rejoin the B’s lineup, after being healthy scratch vs. New Jersey, that adds another dangerous power-play weapon that practiced with that unit on Saturday morning ahead of the traditional morning skate. The hope is that installing Bergeron and Spooner will help kick-start a special teams unit that’s been less than explosive, and not quite cohesive, in the first four games of the season.