BOSTON -- Injured Boston forward Patrice Bergeron skated for a little more than 20 minutes in a one-on-one session with team strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. It was the second-straight day the concussed Bergeron has skated, which is good news.
The bad news, however, is that Sunday's skate came just about 12 hours after Boston learned just how much they missed their do-everything center. Saturday night, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden, Boston dropped a 5-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bergeron's absence was felt in almost every aspect of that loss.
Bruins insist on cautious approach
BOSTON -- Despite overwhelming evidence to the fact that Boston is not near the same team without Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins insist that they will not rush back their No. 2 Center, who suffered a concussion nine days ago.
Bergeron skated Sunday by himself, doing drills with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides -- for 20 or so minutes Saturday. It's the second-straight day the center has been on the ice and just the latest sign that he is making progress as he tries to come back from the third concussion of his career.
Yet the Bruins insist that that progress will not hasten his return, even with the team down a game in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 2 is here at the TD Garden Tuesday night.
"If he's not one hundred percent he will never play," Claude Julien said Sunday. "Whether it's regular season or playoffs, our organization, even before they tightened up the rules on that, there is no way we would ever do that to a player.
"It is too important to his personal lifestyle and the life he is going to lead after hockey that that will always come before the game. And it's unfortunate, but that's the way it should be. We believe in that and we are going to continue to enforce it. So the day you see Bergy back in our line-up, he will be one hundred percent. If he's not you're not going to see him."
That is also the message Bergeron is getting from players he speaks to as he tries to fight his way back to health.
"Obviously he is going to want to be back next game and do everything he can to do that, but even though as bad as he wants to come back he knows he can't just throw himself out there because he won't help us and he's not going to help himself," linemate Brad Marchand said. "Definitely, we want him back as soon as possible. He's such a key part of the team. You're always worried about a guy's health when a situation like this arises; but, the way he is, the way he is looking and the way he talks, he would know when to not comeback and when to come back. By no means is he going to rush himself in this situation."
-- Shawn Roarke, NHL.com
"I can only imagine how much it killed him last night watching that game and being a key factor," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said Sunday after Boston reported to the Garden, foregoing practice for team meetings.
Bergeron could have helped Saturday night in countless ways.
Let's start with the faceoff circle. Boston won just 26 of 67 draws Sunday night, a 39-percent success rate. Bergeron was winning more than 60 percent of his draws in the first two rounds as Boston's primary faceoff guy. David Krejci, assuming that role in Bergeron's absence, went 3-for-18 in the game before being replaced late by Rich Peverley.
"It's so important to start with the puck," Julien said after the game. "When you don't win as many draws as you're used to, you're backpedaling a little bit and those lost draws -- we know how quickly they counter. It certainly didn't help our game tonight."
Bergeron's absence also hurt the team on the penalty kill, although more discreetly. Bergeron is a key penalty killer and he was replaced by Krejci, who is usually held in reserve so Boston can roll out its top line at the end of a successful kill.
"No. 1, we lost a really good penalty killer in Bergeron," Julien said. "Second of all, it seemed some of the guys going in the penalty box were some of our penalty killers, so you are one short before the game starts and you get short by another guy because he's in the penalty box. Those are the kinds of things that are hard to adjust with, but at the same time you like to keep [David] Krejci as a fresh guy coming out with his line after killing penalties and that's always something we try and utilize that line for.
"It made it tough, and sometimes you want to use him early, so you try to save him so you can come back with his line in the end. But they've just been on the ice and they are tired so I can't start them off. So it was a bit of challenge, but a challenge you are ready for as a coach. You look at all the scenarios and you try to work around it."
In reality, Bergeron's absence impacted all four lines during even strength as well.
The top line's rhythm was thrown off its usual rotation because of Krejci's added responsibilities.
The reconfigured second line -- with Chris Kelly in Bergeron's spot -- struggled to find its feet and was reconfigured yet again late in the game. Brad Marchand, one of Boston's most effective forwards, had no shots Saturday night. Recchi, the other wing on the line, had just one shot.
"Pucks didn't seem to come to us like they did in the first," Marchand said, adding the unit will get better after another day of practice before Tuesday's Game 2. "Our chemistry is a little bit off right now."
The third line -- with Tyler Seguin on the right and Michael Ryder moving to the left side, had good and bad moments. Seguin scored his first playoff goal on his first playoff shot in his first playoff game. He also had an assist on Boston's other goal. But that line was victimized for two goals in a 19-second span in the first, changing the whole complexion of the game.
Boston's fourth line stayed together, but saw more time than usual because Julien was hesitant to play Seguin after Tampa Bay's three-goal-in-85-second uprising. The rookie got just two shifts in the second period.
The Bruins know that much of those deficiencies will change when Bergeron returns to the lineup. After all, he leads the team with 12 points and has a team-high 10 assists. He is also a plus-7 and is one of the stabilizing forces in the dressing room.
Yet, the Bruins don't know when Bergeron will be back, even after Sunday's promising news. They know they must plan to continue life without their rudder until he is cleared to come back. And, the plan for Game 2 is already well under way.
"You wish him the best, but you can't get excited or frustrated if he has a setback or anything like That," defenseman Andrew Ference said Sunday. "He's out right now and that is kind of the end of it. It's not that we are pining for the moment he comes back."
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Senior Managing Editor