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NHL Awards: Patrice Bergeron, Selke Finalist

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.comPatrice Bergeron is the ultimate team player.

He is also a prime example of what it means to be a Bruin. He’s a hard worker who does everything right on and off the ice. He sets the right example for his plethora of young teammates. He always holds himself accountable, and there is nothing that matters to him more than winning.

When anyone talks about the way a Bruins forward should play, Bergeron is one of the first players cited as the perfect example, and in the end, it all boils down to this: He is the ultimate two-way player.

For the last three years, Bergeron has been a nominee for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in the NHL. In 2012, Bergeron won it for the first time. Last year, he was nominated once again but lost out to Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.

This year, Bergeron once again joins Toews (28g, 40a, 68pts), as well as the Kings’ Anze Kopitar (29g, 41pts, 70pts), as a nominee for the 2013-14 Selke Trophy, which will be presented at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 24.

Upon receiving his nomination, Bergeron expressed his gratitude — but then, to no one’s surprise, he was quick to credit his teammates with helping him achieve the honor.

“It's definitely a huge honor,” Bergeron said in April. “I mean, it goes [with] the help of all of my teammates, definitely. There’s no individual awards that don’t go without the help of all your teammates, so that's all I can really say.”

Bergeron is coming off one of his best NHL seasons since his breakout year in 2005-06, when he had 31 goals and 42 assists for 73 points. This year, as the Bruins raced to the top of the Eastern Conference and claimed the Presidents’ Trophy, he tallied 30 goals for the second time in his career, leading the Bruins in that category along with Jarome Iginla.

From March 17 to April 8 — which also marked one of the Bruins’ most dominant stretches of the regular season — Bergeron was at his best at the most crucial time. With the playoffs looming and Boston pushing for the top seed in the conference, Bergeron embarked on a 12-game point streak, tallying goals in seven straight games during that stretch. The streak ranks as the third longest in the Bruins’ storied history.

“It’s impressive to score 30 goals, and playing against their top lines all the time — there’s a lot of things you can say about him,” said Bruins forward Loui Eriksson. “He’s good at everything, and I’m glad to have him on the same team.”

It is likely, however, that the stat Bergeron is most proud of is his plus-38 rating, which was second in the league this year to teammate David Krejci’s plus-39. While Bergeron certainly takes pride in his offensive prowess, he is equally cognizant of his impact in the defensive zone, where it is crucial for him to be rock solid, given that his competition is usually the opposing team’s top line.

“I think I’ve always been taught to play the game that way, both sides of the ice,” he said. “Growing up in junior, my coaches put a lot of emphasis on that, and I’ve tried to work on faceoffs as well. I came in the league, and guys like Ted Donato and all the guys that were taking a lot of pride in that aspect of the game and helped me through it. And just obviously with the coaching staff here right now, that’s something they put a lot of work on, and I’m trying to get better at it.”

Added Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, “We’ve built our team a certain way, and we want our players to be good two-way players. And players that can’t play a good two-way game don’t last very long with us because that’s a big part of our makeup here. And it shows.

“They’ve committed because they believe in it. They’ve seen the results, and we’ve got a good group right now that believes in the structure and what we expect out of our team.”

Along with his leadership, Bergeron’s proficiency in his own zone is one of the qualities that makes him such an exemplary Bruin. The Bruins’ game plan revolves around controlling the puck in their own zone before breaking out -- creating offense from defense -- and Bergeron is the team’s prime example of a player who executes that style of play to perfection.

“His work ethic — anybody who plays with him and sees his work ethic doesn’t have a choice but to follow this guy, and that just makes these players better,” Julien said. “And if we see a player who’s got some skill and has got potential, and you put him with Bergy, you know that the other part of his game is going to improve just by playing with him. So that’s certainly been something we’ve always looked at when we’ve put players with him.”

This season, Bergeron was flanked by Brad Marchand on the left and Reilly Smith on the right. Smith, playing in his first full NHL season — and in his first season with the Bruins — praised Bergeron for helping him become one of the B’s breakout stars.

“He’s helped me tons," Smith said. "You learn something new from Bergy every day, so it’s been great for me as a young player, to be able to play with someone like that, and you pick up little tidbits along the way.”

The most important lesson Bergeron taught him?

“Never be satisfied,” Smith said. “Keep on pushing. He’s a guy who, if it’s the first shift of the game or the last shift of the game, up by a couple goals, he’s out there blocking shots, trying to win faceoffs every second he’s out there. Little things like that, you pick up and it goes a long way.

“He’s been great all year, and you can’t say enough about his character and his leadership inside the dressing room as well. So [the nomination is] well-deserved.”

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