Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Bruins 6, Canucks 3: Patrice Bergeron returns in a big way

Ty Anderson
October 19, 2017 - 11:36 pm

It turns out that center Patrice Bergeron, who missed the first five games of the season with a lower-body injury before making his season debut in a 6-3 victory over the visiting Canucks on Thursday, really is that important to the Black and Gold.

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Bergeron’s impact in his first game back. “I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room. Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. Finishing your routes on the forecheck, reloading all the way to our zone.

“Stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. And when you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more,” Cassidy, who noted that the group was a bit ‘quiet’ without a player of Bergeron’s caliber in the room and on the ice, continued. “To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect.”

It didn’t take long for Bergeron to make his mark on this game, the 900th of his NHL career, beyond the player-coaching and verbal communication, either.

With the Bruins down by a goal just 2:58 into the first period, it was Bergeron that came through with the primary assist on Anders Bjork’s goal, scored just 31 seconds later. It was a strong start, and surely eased the pressure when it came to the B’s expectations of a player they absolutely, 100 percent missed beyond words to begin the year.

And when Bergeron was returned to his familiar ‘bumper’ role on the B’s first power-play unit -- and for a full five minutes after Erik Gudbranson tried to murder Frank Vatrano with a board that echoed through the arena -- it was easy to see his rhythm return.

Although Bergeron was an on-ice spectator on David Pastrnak’s otherworldly end-to-end power-play goal in which he turned Michael Del Zotto’s confidence into a puddle, and was on the bench for Bjork’s power-play bullet, Bergeron came through with the primary helper on the B’s third power-play goal on the major, scored by David Krejci.

By the 18-shot period’s end, with the Bruins holding a 4-1 edge on the scoreboard, Bergeron had two assists, four shots on goal, and a takeaway. His biggest struggle, oddly enough, came at the faceoff dot, as he won just four of his nine battles at the dot.

“I felt good,” Bergeron said of his start. “It’s one of those where it’s the first [game] so your legs are a little heavy, especially early on, but, you know, getting those goals definitely helps get yourself going, and after that I felt better as the game went one.”

Bergeron continued to provide an immediate lift in the second period, too, as he won a battle along the wall, and allowed Bjork to feed Brad Marchand for their fifth goal, which proved to be a huge one, as Vancouver came back with two quick goals of their own.

The three assists also moved Bergeron into a tie with B’s legend Ken Hodge for the seventh-most points in franchise history, with 674 points in a Boston uniform. He moved ahead of Hodge in the third period, too, with a game-sealing power-play goal. With a goal and three assists, Bergeron’s 20:58 night gave him his fifth career game of at least four points, and his first since Feb. 9, which was Cassidy’s first game as head coach.

But this night was about far more than points for Bergeron and the Bruins.

With Bergeron (and David Backes) back, the shape of the B’s forward corps took its complete shape -- or as close as we’ve seen it this year, anyways. Bjork, who was at his absolute best tonight, was allowed to reunite with the line he developed insane chemistry with during camp, while Pastrnak dropped back down to Krejci’s line. Backes was an underrated addition to the group, too, as his efforts on their grind-it-out third line did not go unnoticed, and helped complement the aforementioned skillful top-six.

It gave each line an identity, which is something Cassidy’s group has struggled with given the number of injuries they’ve dealt with, and on a night-to-night basis.

“We’ve been going through that here, just dumb luck each game a guy leaves, so you’re trying to piece together – and you’re incorporating [Sean] Kuraly, [Jake] DeBrusk, [Anders] Bjork, now [Kenny] Agostino – guys that don’t have a big history here. Sean had a bit in the playoffs, obviously, he did a real good job for us,” Cassidy acknowledged. “So, you’re trying to fit them into the best spot, so at some point obviously it’s nice to see it all fall into place. We started that way tonight and like I said, hopefully our guys are fine tomorrow, and we continue that way because it makes a big difference. I told you, we’re not in the excuse making business, but when you lose some of your top players, they’re hard to replace. That’s why they’re top-end players.”

Clearly playing at less than 100 percent, Bergeron's return is even more important given the loss of Ryan Spooner (groin tear, out for the next four to six weeks) on Sunday, and in-game loss of Krejci with an upper-body injury (Cassidy said that he doesn’t believe that the Bruins are dealing with any long-term in regards to Krejci, calling it a ‘spasm’).

His production, however, seems nothing short of absurd.

But it’s also exactly what this team has become accustomed to.

“It’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long,” Marchand said after the win, the club’s second in three tries at TD Garden. “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. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

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