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Bergeron, Rask Take Home Top Honors at NHL Awards

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

LAS VEGAS - It was a big night in Vegas for the Bruins on Tuesday at the 2014 NHL Awards, as Patrice Bergeron was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the League's top defensive forward and Tuukka Rask took home the Vezina as the top goaltender.

Bergeron also won the NHL Foundation Player Award and the EA Sports NHL 15 Cover Vote.

The Bruins nearly earned the defensive hat trick, but Zdeno Chara finished second in the James Norris Trophy voting behind Chicago's Duncan Keith.

The awards show took place at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.

"I thought Bergy was hosting the event there for a little bit, because he was up there all the time," joked Rask.

For Bergeron, it marked his third straight Selke nomination and the second time he's won the award in the past three years, last earning the honor in 2012.

In a landslide win, he took first place in the voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Associations with 1,283 points, including 112 first-place votes. LA's Anze Kopitar received 840 points (20 first-place votes) and Chicago's Jonathan Toews received 624 points (two first-place votes).

"It's definitely a huge honor," Bergeron said after earning the award. "Like I've said many times before, any individual award actually goes with the help of all your teammates and coaches, so I've got to give that all to them and thank them for making me a better player."

"You know, it's great but it's all about the team in hockey and no one really cares about the individual awards."

That simple statement is further affirmation of why Bergeron won the award in the first place. He always puts his team first. It's always about the one ultimate goal.

But the centerman was coming off of arguably his most consistent season in the Spoked-B in 2013-14. He reached his second career 30-goal season and ranked second in the NHL with a career-high plus-38 rating, ending 66 of 80 games with an even or positive rating. He led the NHL with 1,015 faceoff wins, the most by any player in the past seven seasons.

For an award given to "the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," Bergeron deserves every ounce of the recognition, even if it's not something that he wants.

"I mean, it feels good. Recognized or not, I would keep going the same way, keep playing the same game and keep trying to get better every night and every practice," said Bergeron. "So I feel like all I want to do is help the team win and I've learned to play the game like I'm playing right now, a two-way game, and that’s all that really matters to me, to be honest with you."

"I don’t really stop and think about if I get recognized or not. It is definitely – I’m not saying I don’t care about it, it’s nice to see and I appreciate it – but that being said, I’ve been lucky enough to be in such an amazing organization that definitely wants to win as much as we all want as players and teammates and I just feel lucky to be part of that."

Bergeron was also awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award, which recognizes an NHL player "who applies the core values of hockey -- commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community." The NHL Foundation is presenting $25,000 to the winner's chosen charitable organization. Bergeron chose the Boston Bruins Foundation.

Bergeron began his "Patrice's Pals" program in 2006-07 that provides patients from local hospitals and children's organization the opportunity to experience Bruins' games. The alternate captain has made an impact on the Boston community since he first slipped on the Black & Gold.

"It's an award that's pretty close to my heart," he said. "It's something that I wanted to do and wanted to get involved, and I came up with the Patrice's Pals program eight years ago and I have so many great memories from that, and it means a lot to me."

"Obviously, I want to thank [Director of Community Relations] Kerry Collins, she's done an amazing job, she's the one that makes everything possible for me to actually have that program. She sets everything up, and I forgot to mention her on stage but you know, I didn't forget about you, you've been amazing and I want to thank you for that."

Bergeron felt so terrible about not mentioning Kerry on stage that he naturally proceeded to work her into every interview, thanking her again and again.

"But it's not about me, that award. I think it should be all about the kids that I've met in the past eight years, they've been amazing and are a true example of courage and perseverance and we should all take a look at them because they're great."

His night didn't stop there, though. Bergeron was named the winner of the EA Sports NHL 15 Cover Vote.

Never in a million years did he think he'd be on the cover of a video game.

"I never thought of that when I grew up. To be on the cover, it's very special," said Bergeron, who beat out Montreal defensman P.K. Subban in the find round of fan voting. "It's a game that I used to play a lot as a kid and so many great players have been on the cover of that game in the past and now to be part of that list is very humbling, so it's pretty special."

"I want to thank all the fans obviously for voting. I’m really grateful for the support that I have received over the course of that campaign and it means a lot to me."

"How many [awards] did he get? Like four or five?" joked Rask. "I mean, he deserves every single trophy he gets, and he got many, so I am really happy for him."

General Manager Peter Chiarelli was in Vegas for the Awards and had been with Bergeron the night before in Vancouver for Hockey Canada's Olympic gold medal ring ceremony.

"He had a real terrific year, and clutch – offensively he’s getting better and I feel he’s still in his prime and he has many years to come," Chiarelli said of Bergeron. "It was a good day for Bergy, I’m happy for him.

Rask joined Bergeron in the winners' circle, earning the first Vezina Trophy of his career with his first nomination.

He established career bests in 2013-14 with 58 games played, a League-leading seven shutouts, and 36 wins. His 2.04 goals-against average ranked fourth in the NHL and his .930 save percentage was second to only Minnesota's Josh Harding (.933 in 29 games). The goalie allowed two or fewer goals in 37 of his 58 appearances.

He was the only goaltender to rank among the NHL’s top five in each of the major statistical categories: shutouts (seven), save percentage, goals-against average and wins (his 36 wins ranked fifth).

"It's a great honor. Everybody says that but I am still kind of shocked that I can’t even really answer any questions," Rask nervously smiled as he spoke with media at the podium following the award announcement.

"It’s a great honor, as they said, there are so many good goalies in the league that 10 guys could have easily won it and they picked me, so it’s a great honor."

Rask isn't usually one to get nervous. He hadn't really prepared a speech - he said he's not a big public speaker - but he knew to dish out his thank your. Still, he was feeling the pressure up on stage.

"I think it’s just the nerves. Trying to speak to hundreds of people, I never get that nervous before a game, ever. So, it’s just not a good feeling. I don’t know how you guys talk in front of cameras all the time, it’s crazy," the goalie quipped.

"The experience was terrifying, almost passed out on the stage there. Good thing I don't have to do that. I just stop pucks, and that's good enough for me."

So, it's a little different than playing in front of thousands of people?

"You think that you perform in front of eighteen, twenty thousand people every night, come here, no problem, but that ain't the case."

"Tuukka was quite nervous, it was actually pretty comical," laughed Chiarelli. "But we’ve all seen him in nets and how ice cool he is. So let him be nervous here and we’ll get back to the season and get back to normal."

Rask received 103 points in the voting by the GMs, with 16 first-place votes. Colorado's Semyon Varlamov came in second with 90 points (nine first-place votes), followed by Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop with 32 points (one first-place vote).

"I had a good chance but so did the other guys, and when it’s the GMs vote, it could go either way," said Rask. "But I wasn’t going to be super mad if I didn’t win it, but I am super happy now."

Most awards are voted on by the players or by the media. This award is voted on solely by general managers.

"I mean, they know the game really well," said Rask. "You know, they really know the game and it really means a lot that the bosses voted you as the best goalie."

As the Bruins would say over, and over, and over again, individuals awards will never amount to winning the Cup, ever.

But, Rask can put it into perspective and realize the honor he's been given.

"I think that's exactly what it is, when you're done playing hockey and you still see your name on those trophies and it feels good, you know you did something right," he said. "As of now, you're playing a team sport and trying to win the Cup but after you're done, you probably feel really happy about this."

The whole experience was new for the 27-year-old, with his first trip to Vegas and first NHL Awards.

"It was great…you know, it was good to see [Bergy] and Zee, and Pevs is here and Andy Ference is here, a lot of old guys so it was a really fun experience," said Rask.

While Bergeron and Rask were winners, Chara missed out on taking home the award for the League's best all-around defenseman. His 667 points placed him second in the voting behind Duncan Keith's 1,033. He received 21 first-place votes, to Keith's 68. Shea Weber finished in third.

It marked Chara's sixth nomination. He last won the Norris in 2009. He finished second in 2004, and third in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

"Well, you look at those Norris candidates and the Selke, there are so many good players in the league that even being in the top three is huge. Zee’s been there, I don’t know how many times, he never lets you down as a leader, as a player," said Rask. "He could have easily have won it too. I’m happy for him that he got to come here."

Chara was coming off a season where he finished fourth among defensemen in scoring with 40 points. Fifteen of those points came on the power play, including 10 of his 17 total goals, with his new position down low. The Bruins went 30-2-2 in games when Chara recorded a point, and 14-0-1 when he scored a goal.

"It would have been nice to see the hat trick, but I told Zee, don’t worry, you’ll get your shot at another one," said Chiarelli, who has also campaigned for the Captain to win the Norris. "And then of course, Tuukka is still young like Bergy and it’s good to see him get the credit and it’s good to know that we have them under contract for a while."

The GM was proud to see his players rewarded with the recognition they deserve.

"Bergy, he’s carved his niche as a two-way forward and sometimes they fall through the cracks when it comes time for media recognition. He’s obviously coming to the forefront so I feel good for him, he deserves it. Zee, he’s a defensive defenseman at heart. He puts up good numbers but sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, despite all the accolades he’s received based on the sheer impact he has on the game."

The defensive trifecta's presence at the Awards was further evidence of just how strong the Bruins were this past season - during the regular season.

"It says a lot. It would have been nice to win the Cup also and get that," said Chiarelli, mirroring the players' thoughts. "I mean, it makes you feel good for a day, it makes you feel good for a week. I’m glad these guys get the honor and the credit and they deserve it."

"I do know that with these three guys, they’ll get back to work in September and they’ll want to win the Cup again and they’ll turn the page pretty quickly. This day is nice, the summer, they can step back and just enjoy these accolades, so I feel good for the guys."

NOTES: Patrice Bergeron finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting, with Tuukka Rask in the 11th spot…David Krejci finished 12th in the Selke voting, receiving two third place votes, one fourth place vote and three fifth place votes…Torey Krug just missed being a finalist for the Calder Trophy awarded to the best rookie, finishing in fourth place in voting behind Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat and winner Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado. Krug received one first-place vote. MacKinnon ran away with the win, earning 130 first-place votes…Claude Julien was fourth in Jack Adams voting with 68 points and six first-place votes. Patrick Roy won with 399 points and 68 first-place votes…Peter Chiarelli was sixth in GM of the Year voting…Former Bruin Andrew Ference won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership, an award won by Bergeron in 2013. Rich Peverley was also in attendance as a presenter. "We had a little reunion, it was awesome," said Ference. "I was really looking forward to that - everybody's got big smiles because we're friends for the rest of life so it's always good to see them."

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