- If youth hockey coaches wanted to explain the perfect hockey player to their teams, all they would have to do is hold up a picture of Patrice Bergeron
The Bruins’ alternate captain and the defending Selke Award winner, for best defensive forward in the NHL, does everything well - whether it’s killing a penalty, winning a faceoff, backchecking, winning a battle in the corner, or scoring the game-winning goal on the power play, Bergeron can deliver.
In Sunday night’s 3-1 win over the Sabres’ Bergeron did all of those things. In 19 minutes of ice time, he tallied five shots on net, won 12 of 19 faceoffs (63-percent), contributed to another perfect penalty killing night, and scored the winner on the man advantage, 7:52 into the third period.
Bergeron, who is among the league leaders in faceoff win percentage (63.4), was actually kicked out of the faceoff circle that was to the right of Sabres’ goalie, Ryan Miller. Rich Peverley stepped in and won the draw, and with some help from Bergeron, got the puck back to Chris Bourque at the point.
Bourque fired a shot that went wide of the goal and bounced, perfectly, right to No. 37 who was positioned all alone in the slot. Bergeron then fired a shot past Miller to put the Bruins up, 2-1.
“I just won it back a little bit, Bergy helped me out getting it back to Bourquey,” said Rich Peverley following Monday afternoon’s practice at TD Garden. “I always said that you’re as good as the guys you have as your wingers. Being able to have guys help me out at both sides – I try to do the same for Chris Kelly and Bergy.”
“It’s also about shooting the puck, and if you shoot the puck it usually creates some kind of chaos and everyone kind of looks at the puck and goes out of position. It’s a great job by Bergy finishing.”
The power-play goal was just the Bruins first in five games and Bergeron was pleased to be able to break that streak.
“It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time, since the beginning of the year, is we need to create some momentum out of our power play and score some goals, find ways to score goals,” Bergeron said following Sunday night’s win. “That was a timely goal, especially in that third period to get the lead.”
Bergeron added that he thinks the B’s man advantage has been generating some good chances this season, even if they are not scoring, and said sometimes you just need a bit of a break.
“You’ve got to stay positive and find ways,” he explained. “Most of the time, I thought we’ve been moving the puck well. Obviously, we’ve got to get better, we’ve had some bad bounces going the other way. We’ll take that lucky break because it’s karma at some point you’ve got to get one.”
The game-winner by Bergeron allowed the Bruins to improve to 8-1-1 on the season; that is good for the best 10-game start in franchise history. It’s a far cry from the start the Black & Gold got off to last season, when they opened up their title defense with a 3-7-0 record in their first 10 games.
Bergeron attributed the hot start to the B’s ability to play well in close games, saying his team’s character has been shining early on in the season.
“Honestly, we find ways in close games,” said Bergeron, when asked about the difference between last year’s start and this year’s. “Last year was the opposite. I think we'd have the lead and let it slip late in the third. I think this year we're much better at finding ways to battle back in games where we don't have the best start.
“I know we’ve got to play for 60 minutes, our character has been great in the first 10 games. Every year you want to win, right? I think this year we're hungry and we want to win. We know it's a short season and we know every game is very important.”
Bergeron also thinks the fact that the team has had very little turnover since the Bruins Cup run two years ago, has given them an advantage in the shortened season.
“The fact that we have all the same guys coming back, it could be an advantage for us,” said the center. “We needed to take care of [games early], and make sure that we were coming out of the gates strong. I think we've done that.”