-- Ever since he cracked the NHL as an 18-year-old straight out of junior hockey, Patrice Bergeron
's movie star looks and superb on-ice skill have made him one of the Boston Bruins
' most recognizable and in-demand players.
But as a humble kid from Quebec City, he's never sought out the spotlight for his own personal gain. Now that he's an alternate captain and star player for the defending Stanley Cup champions, however, the notoriety is unavoidable.
The attention continued to intensify last week when the cameras from "NHL 36" followed Bergeron on a game day in Phoenix. The 30-minute episode premiers Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network and airs over the weekend on the NHL Network.
"I was actually surprised when [Director of Communications Matt Chmura] told me about the ‘NHL 36.' I was like, ‘Really?' And also I was like, ‘I'm kind of a boring guy, I don't do that much,'" Bergeron said after the Bruins practiced Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena. "We joked about it. But it was nice to actually get that and also go to the media tour [for the League in New York] earlier this year. Sometimes it's nice to get recognized, but at the same time, I don't really care as long as we're playing like we are right now."
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The way the Bruins have been playing, Bergeron has to be overjoyed. Just when it seemed last season's Stanley Cup championship left no room for improvement, Boston rebounded from a 3-7-0 start during its title defense to emerge as a League-wrecking juggernaut.
Boston is 23-3-1 since Nov. 1, a run that helped them climb to second in the Eastern Conference prior to Tuesday night's games. It wasn't that long ago that the Bruins were looking up at the rest of the East. A major reason for the Bruins' turnaround has been the play of Bergeron and linemates Brad Marchand
and Tyler Seguin
. While the trio of Milan Lucic
, David Krejci
and Nathan Horton
is widely recognized as the Bruins' No. 1 line, production-wise it's been Bergeron's unit that's thrived more than any other in Boston's balanced attack.
But Bergeron's importance to the Bruins goes way beyond the 7 goals, 28 points and plus-20 rating he has produced in 35 games played. Over the course of the season he's played both up front and back on the point for Boston's power play, which has finally begun to perform at a clip nearly worthy of ranking in the top third of the League. He's also a vital cog in Boston's top-5 penalty-kill.
As if he didn't have enough responsibilities on his plate, Bergeron has taken 271 more faceoffs than his closest teammate, Krejci. Even more remarkable than that total is he's won 58 percent of them, which puts him among the League leaders and has helped Boston climb to the top of the NHL. Bergeron, who was fourth in the voting for last year's Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward, should garner plenty of attention for that award again this season.
"I actually like it. It gets me into games," Bergeron said about the heavy faceoff load. "I do take a lot. Sometimes I finish games taking, 25, 30 faceoffs a game. But it's good because it gets you going. I find it (easier) to take that many than taking four or five, because you get into a groove. Obviously, if the night goes well it's even better. But it just feels good."
In every way, Bergeron is the type of player the Bruins could not live without.
"He's a piece of the foundation. He's just one of those guys that if you missed him, if he was just gone, the whole thing would wobble a bit," defenseman Andrew Ference
said. "His demeanor, the way he conducts himself off the ice and the way that he shows up every night and just has that consistency … I don't know what better way to describe it than he's just a foundation player."
Throughout his eight NHL seasons, Bergeron's leadership has been impeccable. He was named an alternate captain just before his third season. So even now that he's still just 26, he has plenty to offer in terms of guidance to his teammates -- including his linemates, 19-year-old Seguin and 23-year-old Marchand.
In just his second season, Seguin has put up 15 goals and 32 points through 34 games, while Marchand has followed up a 21-goal rookie campaign with 15 goals and 30 points. More than their production, though, it's the way they go about their business on the ice, and focus and perform at both ends of the rink, which shows how Bergeron has rubbed off on the youthful duo.
"These guys, they want to learn, and that's the biggest thing," said Bergeron, who is coming off consecutive seasons of more than 50 points. "They're young and they have the energy and they're just always happy, they're always in it, they always want to learn. So they're pretty much sponges right now, and you're trying to teach them as much as you know, as much as you can. But they're such good players that they don't need much for me to tell them. They're pretty good with their vision, they're reacting well on the ice, and so far it's been good."
Seguin knows how lucky he is to have a teammate and linemate like Bergeron.
"I think everyone by now knows he's a really great leader and someone you can follow after," Seguin said. "With his on-ice, he's kind of a complete player. He can play in any position and if the coach puts him on in any situation, he can handle it. He's a pretty focused guy, and pretty committed to the game and he's someone I look up to."
Viewers will get a closer look at Bergeron on "NHL 36." But because it was filmed on a game day they won't see the quiet-but-playful Bergeron who can impersonate Borat and other celebrities. They'll get an up-close look at the hyper-focused, intense Bergeron whose life revolves around the hard work it takes to make his team be the best it can be.
"You like when it pays off. It did last year," Bergeron said about all the hard work. "The ultimate goal was to hoist that trophy, and we did. That's when I get paid off. That's the ultimate prize, and I'm really pleased with that. People see the little details -- not everyone, but some people do -- and I do it for my teammates."