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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.