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Bergeron's All-Star Status Extends Beyond His Game

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

COLUMBUS - Patrice Bergeron has accolades upon accolades that give him all-star status.

He's a Stanley Cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Selke winner as the NHL's top defensive forward. He'll score, put up assists and backcheck until the end of time, making sure to take care of his own end.

The NHL All-Star Game doesn't always lend to the latter, with shutdown defensive structure not a high priority, as was the case in the 2015 version in Columbus at Nationwide Arena on Sunday night.

Bergeron and Team Toews took the game 17-12, with 92 total shots fired on goal, including four from the Bruins center in his first All-Star Game.

He scored one of his team's 17 goals and recorded four assists, setting up the Islanders' John Tavares for every one of his goals. He was a plus-4, went 57-percent on the faceoff dot and logged 14:35 in ice time, the third lowest total on the team, just above rookies Filip Forsberg and Johnny Gaudreau.

He was one of the candidates for MVP, though Columbus' Ryan Johansen earned the honors with some help from the home crowd.

Bergeron played like Bergeron. He wasn't flashy, though putting up the primary assist on a player's four goals gives a little flash to the night. He put his stick in the passing lanes, and just played his game.

"I'm definitely going to backcheck," Bergeron had smiled prior to the game. "I'm just going to go out there and play hockey."

The Bruins' alternate captain had long been termed "underrated" around the NHL. Consistency doesn't always breed all-star status, unless it's coming in the form of goals.

"I would keep playing the same style and the same game I'm playing right now, being recognized or not," Bergeron said after being named to the All-Star roster. "So that's definitely not going to change, but that being said, it is nice to be recognized and being able to experience events like the All-Star Game."

Bergeron graces the cover of the EA Sports NHL 15 video game. His jerseys sell. Fans - especially if they're young - gravitate towards him, even if they're not in Boston and not part of the diehard Black and Gold faithful.

It's difficult to not appreciate his game. It's even harder to not appreciate the person behind the game.

"I think you look at a player like him, and not just what he does well away from the puck, but leadership, character, just a tremendous person as well," said Tavares, who had the chance to play with Bergeron for a few games at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, in addition to being the benefactor of his passes in the All-Star Game.

"I'm fortunate to have been around him at an event like this and play with him at the Olympics."

"I mean, does so many things well. You have so much respect for him as a player and he's such a tough matchup when you play against him," he said. "It's nice to kind of be on this end of it and play with him."

"Just a tremendous person as well, his character and leadership. You can see why Boston every year has that kind of team that's very resilient and always so good."

It doesn't matter if Bergeron knows players personally or not. They all know him.

"Great guy. I love the way he plays," said Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno, captain of the opposing All-Star team, after meeting Bergeron for the first time at a community event on Friday that kicked off the weekend in Columbus.

During the All-Star Fantasy Draft, Rangers' forward Rick Nash announced Bergeron as Team Toews' ninth selection. The draft was relaxed and light, and there were plenty of jokes thrown out prior to picks being announced. It's not so easy to joke about Bergeron.

"One of the best players in the League, who does it all," Nash said before saying Bergeron's name.

"He's a respected guy," Nash later said of the cordial announcement. "I was teammates with him in Vancouver and Sochi and he's an impressive player that sometimes flies under the radar, so I was happy to make that pick."

From the fantasy draft, to the skills competition, to the game, Bergeron took in the experience of the weekend, while still flying under the radar. Media didn't swarm to him like they did to the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Tyler Seguin. He didn't dazzle during the shootout or break any records. He just went about his business, and soaked it in.

"It's definitely lighter - a lighter side this weekend, and so you have a chance to talk to the guys and find out the different personalities that you don't necessarily see during international tournaments or during the season," said Bergeron. "So it's nice to be here and have a chance to interact with all these guys."

"It's nice to catch up guys I know from the past and it's also nice to get to know some guys that are great players in the League."

"I talked a lot with Shea Weber, we're good friends, and catching up with all the guys from Team Canada. I got to know [Aaron] Ekblad, a young player coming up, a great player and [Filip] Forsberg and lots of guys that i've never met before. [Patrik] Elias is definitely a player I grew up watching and he's still kicking it here at the All-Star Game, so definitely nice to meet him and definitely a nice guy."

Bergeron got to play on a line with Elias and Tavares during the game. He also had the chance to reunite with his former linemate Seguin, who assisted on his goal.

"That's what we said, 'We still got it!'" Bergeron laughed. "Chemistry's still there. I saw him, he looked at me and waited for me to get in the zone, so that was pretty nice of him to do that and I knew he was going to try to give it back, so I was just trying to get open."

"It was great to see that."

While Bergeron was glad to meet Forsberg and Ekblad, they probably learned more from meeting him, just as other younger players have before, and will continue to do - like Seguin.

"With Bergeron, it's really hard to pinpoint one thing that I learned," Seguin said earlier in the weekend. "Overall, his general persona of a person, his leadership qualities and how he is on the ice, his two-way play."

"He never seems to be getting any slower, any worse at hockey - only seems to be getting better every year."

Now it's back to Boston for All-Star Bergeron.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was definitely a great experience and a lot of fun and I was playing with great players and I was really trying to just enjoy the moment, and I did."

He's grateful for the experience, but he's ready to get back to his teammates and continue the season.

"It's definitely going to be a big stretch coming back, so I'm definitely going to have to make sure as soon as [Sunday night] hits, make sure we're back at it and back to work, and ready to go," said Bergeron. "So it was nice to relax here, but it will be important to be ready for the last run."

The Bruins had won six of eight prior to the All-Star break. They were turning their game around. They'll continue working to do so, as a team.

If Bergeron played the game differently, or played for a different team, with a different system, maybe he'd be relied upon more heavily - maybe he'd be a 50-goal scorer and the highlight of All-Star festivities.

"I want to win, and I feel that [Boston] has given me the best chance to do so," said Bergeron. "And it proved itself in 2011 and 2013 by going to the Finals and winning it in 2011."

"I think it doesn't really matter to me, to be honest with you - I'm happy in Boston and all I want is success as a team."

Recognized or not, that's what he's an "All-Star."

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