Things are much better for the Boston Bruins when Patrice Bergeron is on the ice and Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden was all the evidence one may need.
For the first five games of the 2017-18 season, the Bruins were Bergeron-less due to a lower-body injury suffered in the last few days leading up to their season-opening contest with the Nashville Predators.
Skating in game action for the first time in weeks, it wouldn’t have shocked anyone to see Bergeron ease his way into things as he gets his legs back under him. But if Thursday was Bergeron’s way of easing into things, then the Bruins are going to be very pleased with his production this season.
“Yeah, I felt good. I mean, you know, it’s one of those things where it’s the first one so your legs are a little heavy, especially early on,” Bergeron said postgame. “But, you know, getting those goals definitely helps get yourself going, and yeah after that, you know, I felt better as the game went on.”
Those goals Bergeron referred to? The three the Bruins scored on a five-minute power play thanks to Erik Gudbranson’s ugly hit from behind on Frank Vatrano behind the Canucks net – a hit that earned the Canucks blue-liner a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The Bruins also scored three more times including Bergeron’s third period power-play goal to ice their third of the season.
“Yeah, I thought that’s something we talked about. You know, we want to be a tight group and take a team response to stuff like that, and that’s something we talked about on the bench when they announced the penalty that we had to make him pay and that’s the worst way to make him pay is by scoring goals, and that was a great power play for us,” Bergeron said in regards to the teams response following the hit.
As expected, Bergeron was slotted between Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork. The line was intact for most of the preseason as head coach Bruce Cassidy and company were excited to see what the trio could bring to the table. Much to Cassidy’s chagrin, the performance they turned in during their first official game as a line was a combined for four goals and six assists. Not a bad start.
“Yeah, we were going to try to get that. It’s something we stuck with in training camp and wanted to see how it would play out,” Cassidy said about keeping Marchand, Bergeron and Bjork together as a line.
“You know, a number of different things go into it, one of them is Bjork gets to learn from two world-class players, and then [Jake] DeBrusk would learn from David [Krejci] and David has won a Stanley Cup championship and Pasta [David Pastrnak] has become world-class – so that’s, in an ideal world, they’re learning from good players. Didn’t work out that way but today it did, so I mean again, we’re going to try to stick with it. We’ll see how everything shakes out.”
As pretty as the line’s stats look, their overall play was something to marvel at. They won possession battles and controlled the play with the puck as they gave the Canucks no chance of slowing them down.
With three goals in five games, Marchand was having no issues putting the puck in the net without Bergeron. But there’s no denying that Marchand is excited to have Bergeron back on the ice.
“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way he played out there tonight,” said Marchand. “He just… it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, and, you know, again, he’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. You know, he just does everything that a top guy does.”
Just six games into his National Hockey League career, the 21-year old Bjork is quickly learning how special Bergeron is, and how important he really is to the Bruins success both on and off the ice.
“I mean, it’s huge for our team. He obviously brings a lot of skill and passion and he brings a lot of other things that you don’t really realize – in the locker room and on the bench and stuff,” said Bjork who scored his second and third goals of the season Thursday night.
“So I mean, you can definitely see why he’s one of the best players in the NHL, not just because of what he does on the ice, but in the locker room as well.”
Is Bergeron’s four-point night an indication that he’s over the hump with his injury? Well, that remains to be seen.
“That’s the million dollar question, right?” Bergeron said with a smile.
“I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good, but there’s, we might manage a little bit for quite a while, but I’m feeling good and tonight [Thursday] was no issue.”
No issue indeed, having Bergeron back on the ice is never an issue.