BOSTON - Patrice Bergeron penned an essay for The Players' Tribune this week called 'Back Where We Belong,' within which he touched on a number of topics, chief among them his excitement for returning to the postseason.
After two straight campaigns without playoff hockey on Causeway Street, the 13-year NHL veteran will be making his eighth trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Bruins kick off their First Round series with the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night.
"Over the years we developed a culture where as a team, our focus wasn't on making the playoffs. We were out to win the Cup," Bergeron said in the piece. "The fact that we'd be in the hunt was almost an afterthought - we were more concerned with what changes and adjustments we needed to make to be successful once the playoffs started.
"So to miss the playoffs the past two seasons was something completely foreign to the core guys on the team. We were accustomed to being contenders every year, and to not even be involved definitely shook us.
"And now, we're back where we belong. Finally."
Bergeron touched on feeling a sense of relief to return to the postseason, which he hopes can act as a new beginning for the team.
"The past couple of years, we've been through the lows. Now we're ready for that high," said Bergeron. "And now that we're back, it just feels right. It feels like a brand new season for us. It feels unbelievable."
The longtime Bruin also remembered back to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, during which he played Game 6 with a cracked rib and torn cartilage. Despite an unimaginable amount of pain, the Bruins' alternate captain never thought about sitting out that must-win game.
His inspiration was seeing former linemate Mark Recchi battle through kidney stones during the Bruins' 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals series against Carolina.
"Before one of the games during the series, Mark was sick. Like really sick. He had kidney stones, and he couldn't stop throwing up," wrote Bergeron. "Right up until we took the ice, I watched him struggle just to sit upright. But when the puck dropped, he went out there and played his game.
"That showed me something. It showed me what playoff hockey was really about - the sacrifices that need to be made.
"Fast-forward to Game 6 in 2013, I knew that I wasn't right. I was in a lot of pain…. but it didn't matter. I was playing. No question. I wasn't sitting this one out."
Bergeron ended up suffering a punctured in that game.
"I'd do it all again," he said. "The cracked ribs, the cartilage, even the punctured lung. I'd do it all again in a second. I'd do it again because I had learned from others the sacrifices you need to make as a team in order to win in the playoffs.
"But most of all, I'd do it all again because I know a pain that hurts so much more than any of those injuries: The pain of not making the playoffs at all."
Bergeron also recalls the challenges he faced adjusting to a new culture when he arrived in Boston as a teenager, as well as what it's like to play with Brad Marchand. You can read the full piece here.