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For Patrice Bergeron, There's One Goal That Has Always Transcended Thirty

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - On April 13, 2006, Patrice Bergeron became the youngest Bruin in franchise history to record a 30-goal season.

He was 20 years and 262 days old. He potted his 30th and 31st goals that day against the Montreal Canadiens in the final home game at TD Garden, and the second to last game of the season.

But, of course, the magnitude of the milestone was unbeknownst to Bergeron at the time, until someone informed him.

"I didn't know about that," Bergeron had said, after becoming the youngest to reach the milestone in his second full NHL season. "It's flattering because of all the great players that have played in Boston."

"At the same time, I'm not thinking about that. It's about the team, not about me. Obviously, it's flattering, but I am looking forward for next season now."

Boston missed the postseason that year. After having suited up in a seven-game series against Montreal in 2003-04, Bergeron wouldn't find himself back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until 2009 under Head Coach Claude Julien.

Much has changed around the organization since then. Bergeron is the only Bruin from the 2005-06 team who remains in Black & Gold. The 2013-14 version just finished atop the League before heading into the postseason.

On April 12, 2014, almost exactly eight years later, Bergeron fired in Goal No. 30 for the second time in his career, and the first time since that day in 2006.

It led the Bruins to a 4-1 win over Buffalo in their final home game of the season, having clinched the Presidents' Trophy with just one game to go.

Bergeron scored in the second period, with the primary assist awarded to his longtime linemate Brad Marchand, who sent him a perfect feed at the top of the dot in the right circle. The centerman's first pump was his 11th in his past 12 games played.

He did not return for the third period of the game, with his situation deemed "very minor." Not returning, though, meant that he also wouldn't be answering questions from reporters postgame about the milestone of his 30-goal season.

But, as usual, we don't need to hear the words straight from Bergeron, because he's already told us, in so many different ways, on countless occasions.

The milestone is great, he would say, but more important was getting the win, and now shifting focus to the goal that really matters - winning the Stanley Cup.

Bergeron isn't one who likes to talk about himself much, anyways.

So, without his own words, it's somehow more fitting that his teammates and head coach are the ones who got to boast about his achievement.

"I think we’re really proud of what he’s accomplished this year," said Julien. "Thirty goals is quite a feat, and for a guy who excels at both ends of the ice, even more so."

"It takes a heck of a player to be able to score 30 and be so reliable defensively and be as strong at both ends of the ice. That’s an incredible player in my mind."

Bergeron finished the 2013-14 regular season with 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points through 80 games played. While plus-minus isn't often valued all too much as a stat, it matters to Bergeron and he finished with a plus-38 rating, second in the League only to teammate David Krejci at plus-39.

"Bergy even said to me, he didn’t care at one point whether he got 30 or not," said Julien. "If he went and got it today [against Buffalo], he wouldn’t have cared about staying behind for [the final regular season game]. That didn’t matter to him."

"His words to me were: 'the big picture is what I’m worried about right now.'"

Bergeron joined the also hot-handed Iginla at the 30-goal plateau after they both lit up down the stretch. Both were key leaders as the Bruins went 15-1-1 in the month of March to position themselves atop the standings. Iginla finished the season with 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points and a plus-34 rating.

"As we mentioned before, we’re team oriented," said Julien. "We focus on the big goal and what it takes to get there, and our guys have bought into that. They don’t really care."

Bergeron may be eight years older and wiser since his first 30-goal season, with a Cup and two Olympic gold medals now in his repertoire, but he has never 'changed' who he is as a player.

He has just refined, improved and perfected his game (though, you won't find the word 'perfect' in his vocabulary -- that will only come from others).

When Bergeron was amidst his point streak - which, would have officially hit 13 games when he potted his 30th, if he hadn't sat out the previous game to rest up - he didn't really care to talk about his point streak.

"It's one of those streaks, where the puck's going in," he had said, with his usual coy smile. "I don't think I'm doing anything different; just try and keep playing my game at 200 feet and playing at both sides, and my linemates and everyone helping me, and we're pushing together."

"No one's really looking at who's scoring; it's about winning, and it's fun like that."

Bergeron is well aware of the help he's had along the way. Sixteen players earned assists on his goals. His right winger, Reilly Smith, recorded an assist on seven of Bergeron's tallies, and Brad Marchand earned 12 helpers (including the primary assist on Bergeron's final three goals to reach 30).

"Obviously, when you are scoring, your linemates are usually doing lots of the work to get the puck to you or to create some openings," said Bergeron. "It’s been great to play with these guys and I feel like we’ve been establishing chemistry as it went on."

Though, most of their help alongside Bergeron, especially in the defensive zone, doesn't make the scoresheet.

"He just seems so aware of the game every minute of the period," said Marchand, who often jokes that he is lost without his centerman. "He’s always conscientious of where guys are and if it’s a good play to jump in, he is really good at reading that."

"That’s one of those opportunities where he stayed high and he knew it was better to be in a defensive position," Marchand added, of how Bergeron scored his 30th, from near the top of the right circle. "And that’s why he's like, plus-40."

As a line, they pride themselves on having a relentless backcheck and defensive awareness that translates into offensive success. That approach applies to the entire team. Sometimes, it feels as if they take greater pride in preventing a goal, as opposed to scoring one.

"I think it rubs off on everybody," said Julien. "I think Patrice and [David Krejci] would probably like to score more than prevent them, but they take the importance of preventing just as seriously."

"And I think that’s what rubs off on the other guys and I know for a fact our guys grab a sheet at the end of the game and they look at the plus-minuses and they keep track of that stuff. It’s important to them because, to them, it gives them an idea of whether they’re helping the team out or whether they didn’t help the team out that night."

"So I think it’s just rubbing off on everybody. I think everybody’s taken a lot of pride in being a positive influence on our hockey club."

Valued as a complete player, Bergeron is a go-to center for Julien, when he needs a key defensive zone faceoff won. He's a 'go-to' when the Bruins are up a goal, or down a goal late in the game. He's a 'go-to' on the penalty kill, on the power play, and when the Bruins need a surge of leadership on the bench, on the ice, or in the locker room.

"For a guy who takes a lot of pride to play well defensively, it’s a great accomplishment and a great milestone to reach," said Zdeno Chara, who has formed a strong leadership bond with Bergeron for years. "Not many guys are able to do that, playing on both ends of the ice like he does."

"He’s just been red-hot," said Marchand. "And hopefully he can continue that into the playoffs."

Now, with the milestone in the record books, and both his goal and plus-minus slates wiped clean, Bergeron is just days away from his seventh postseason in the Spoked-B.

Sure, he would like to continue putting the puck in the net as the second season begins.

But, to the longtime Bruin, it doesn't matter who's scoring the goals, as long as they're getting closer to the one that transcends all the rest.

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