Haggerty: Bergeron's Game 7 for the ages


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

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will have plenty of proud history on display for tonight’s home opener when Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt drop the ceremonial first puck at TD Garden prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils.

Orr is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first NHL game, and the amazing Schmidt is there for the 80th anniversary of his rookie NHL season, and it will be up to the current crop of B’s players afterward to play up to the standards of those two Hall of Fame legends. That was a difficult challenge for the Black and Gold last season as they struggled to a 17-18-6 record on home ice and experienced some of their worst regular-season efforts in front of the paying home customers.

When placed side-by-side with a road record (25-13-3), where only the Sharks and Capitals had more victories on the road last season, it was clear the B’s had some strange motivational issues at the Garden. Whether it was leadership, maturity or the coach to blame for their home malaise, the Bruins are looking to reverse that trend this season after an encouraging 2-1 start on the first three-game road trip of the season.

In fact, Brad Marchand didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about last year’s home ice funk.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we’re looking to have a big start at home and have a big year. We want to try and start that tonight,” said Brad Marchand. “We don’t have to get anxious and too excited. We play a good road game and if we play the same way at home as we do on the road then hopefully we’ll be okay.”

The home ice anxiousness was clear on many occasions for the Bruins whether it was getting blown out at the Winter Classic, getting smoked in Milan Lucic’s return to the Garden with the LA Kings or epically blowing the final game of the season vs. Ottawa with the playoffs on the line. It will be interesting to see what a big personality and hardened, vocal leader David Backes can bring to combat some of the home ice skittishness of last season. 

One other thing the Bruins will be looking to change: allowing the other team to score the first goal, as they’ve done in all three games to start this season. It could perhaps be excused with the B’s playing the polite visitor at the emotional home openers for  the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs last week, but now it’s their turn to jack up the emotional level and make TD Garden a much more difficult place to play than it was for the majority of last season. 


Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Krejci hasn’t exactly been his usual self in the opening three games of the season for the Bruins and there are understandable, underlying reasons for that. 

One of them is that the 30-year-old playmaking center is coming off major offseason hip surgery and that’s made him look less than his silky-smooth best with the puck in the season’s first three games.

The good news is Krejci doesn’t believe any lingering hip problems have been a big factor at all, and instead his comfort level is increasing each time he takes the ice.

“I feel better and better every day. This is a tough injury, but I’m in good shape and in really good hands. The doctors have done a really good job with me every day, and it’s been really good,” said Krejci, who has one assist in the opening three games with just three shots on net while fighting to hang onto the puck. “It’s been fun to be out there with the guys, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

A more reasonable explanation for Krejci’s sluggish start was the last-second injury to Patrice Bergeron prior to the start of the season and the major alteration to his forward line as a result of No. 37’s absence. David Backes was pulled from the right wing spot on the Krejci line to fill in for Bergeron over the season’s first three games and he came away with two goals and three points in three games centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But the B’s second line was almost non-existent with smaller, skilled wingers on either side of Krejci that weren’t able to generate anything productive with No. 46. The B’s obviously have massive production from the top line in Bergeron’s absence and have found a respectable fourth line that can get the job done for Claude Julien. Even the third line has found some footing after the B’s bench boss replaced rookie Austin Czarnik with veteran Riley Nash and instead went with a bigger, tougher power line with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the wings.

Now, Backes goes back to his rightful spot on the wing with Krejci and 21-year-old rookie Danton Heinen looks to replace a scuffling Ryan Spooner at left wing for tonight’s home opener vs. the New Jersey Devils. Backes is ready to bring some needed balance to the forward lines after the B’s top line really carried them over the first three games of the season and produced a team-high four goals for David Pastrnak.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Backes also knows that he’s exactly the kind of strong, determined net-front presence with goal-scoring ability that Krejci has always produced with over the course of his 10-year NHL career.

“I won’t be involved in the immediate face-off, but [I will be involved] in helping him on the 50/50 draws to win the puck back. Just talk all over the ice like we have been with Heinen on the wing he’s got two veteran guys with him, and we need to make him feel comfortable to be a very productive member [of the line],” said Backes. “We’ll get back to cooking a little bit with how we were looking before I was forced to play center.

“I think it puts the other teams in a predicament with that they’re going to try to defend if we have a couple-pronged attack. It’s a kind of pick-your-poison kind of deal. A checking line can typically do a good job of neutralizing a line, but when you have multiple options and multiple guns pointed at them it’s a little bit more of a predicament for them. When we’re healthy, we’re going to have that.”

So, the hope is that having a power forward, play-finisher like Backes is going to allow him time and space to create plays that have a little more hope of being turned into scoring chances at the offensive end of the ice.

“When injuries happen you’ve got to balance the team and that’s what happened. But I’m happy [Backes] is back on our line,” said Krejci, who has always been at his best while utilizing big, strong wingers on his line whether it was Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton over the years. “Hopefully we can get the chemistry early on as a line, and help the team to win.

“[Backes] is a right-handed shot, so that’s nice to have.  I had two lefties there [in Spooner and Heinen] and sometimes it’s tough to get a good pass on the backhand. He’s been playing well the first two games, so hopefully I can keep up and we can get some chemistry to help the team win.”

So, it remains to be seen how long it will take Krejci to find his offensive mojo while centering a line combo of Heinen-Krejci-Backes that didn’t get much of a look in the preseason, but the sooner, the better for a Bruins team that needs to start firing on all offensive cylinders while still working through their defensive challenges.