Patrice Bergeron happy for new Penguins coach Mike Sullivan: 'You want to play for a guy like that'

DJ Bean
December 15, 2015 - 1:20 pm
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[caption id="attachment_54602" align="alignright" width="150"] Patrice Bergeron[/caption] WILMINGTON -- Back in the spring of 2004, Claude Julien and his seventh-seeded Canadiens upset the second-seeded Bruins, a team that surged in the regular season behind a first-year NHL coach in Mike Sullivan. Asked what he remembered from that series, Julien offered nothing. "I don'€™t remember anything; that'€™s too [long ago], to be honest with you," Julien said with a grin. "That'€™s 12 years, right? My memory'€™s not that good." Patrice Bergeron'€™s is, but then again Sullivan'€™s first season should mean much more to Bergeron than it should to Julien. That was also Bergeron'€™s first season in the NHL, one that he felt might not have even happened without Sullivan. When Sullivan, recently named the Penguins'€™ head coach, comes to the Garden, he'€™ll be leading a team in Boston for the first time since he was fired by the Bruins in 2006. While Sullivan'€™s second season as Bruins'€™ head coach (2005-06, the first season back from the lockout) got him fired by then-incoming general manager Peter Chiarelli, Sullivan was not a bad coach for Boston. A bad start to that season prompted general manager Mike O'€™Connell to trade Joe Thornton, and other players such as Sergei Samsonov followed. Despite losing to the Canadiens, B'€™s fans should look back on Sullivan'€™s first season more fondly. Bergeron certainly does, as he is extremely grateful for what the former Boston University forward did for his career. '€œHe'€™s the one that gave me my chance,'€ Bergeron said. '€œAs a rookie coming in, a second-round pick, a lot of coaches could have just sent me back to junior and not even given me a shot, [but] he did and gave me some exemption games to prove myself. I'€™ll always be thankful for that. He'€™s a great coach and it'€™s well-deserved, I think. It'€™s taken a long time for him, but he'€™s gotten experience over the years and that probably makes him a better coach now.'€ Drafted months prior to that season in the second round, Bergeron was moved by Sullivan from center to right wing as a rookie after surprising in camp and making the team. In addition to that move allowing him to make the NHL so young, Bergeron credits it with eventually making him an Olympian years later in Vancouver. "If you look at it, in the long run, I was able to make the Olympic team because of it because I was able to play as a wing,'€ he said. '€œIt'€™s definitely something that helped me in my career, for sure." Though Bergeron'€™s time playing for Sullivan didn'€™t last particularly long, one of the biggest moments of the 30-year-old'€™s career came in that first season, when he scored in overtime of Game 2 of the first round to give the Bruins a 2-0 series lead, albeit one they would eventually relinquish in a seven-game series defeat. Asked if there was anything Sullivan said to the teenager before that playoff series, Bergeron said it was just more of what he had come to know from the coach, something he figures Sullivan will take to the Penguins. "For me, as a young kid, he was always really positive," Bergeron said. "I think that was the main thing with him. I'€™d had a few stretches during that year as a rookie that I was going dry a bit and not playing as well, and he would meet with me, but always in a positive way where I could learn from it and grow from it. It'€™s really the one thing that always stood out to me, was the confident that he had in his players and how much he believed in us as his players. You want to play for a guy like that."