The run of bad breaks, bad luck and bad finishes continued for the Boston Bruins on Saturday night at the Belle Centre in Montreal, as they threw away yet another game they dominated, giving up two goals to the Canadiens in the last 2:22 of regulation before falling to the Habs, 3-2, in overtime.
With first place in the Northeast Division on the line, the Bruins controlled the first 40 minutes of play, outshooting (21-19), out chancing (13-6) and out scoring (2-0) the Canadiens. If controlling play wasn’t enough, Boston was a perfect 12-0-0 on the season when staking themselves a 2-0 lead coming into the night. All signs pointed to the Bruins scoring their first win against the Canadiens this season and extending their lead in the Northeast. The Canadiens, however, took over in the third as the Bruins retreated into their defensive shell and things then went from good to bad for the Bruins league-leading third period defense and captain Zdeno Chara.
With Michael Ryder in the box for tripping, the Canadiens took advantage of a seeing-eye goal from Scott Gomez to cut the deficit to 2-1 at 17:38 of the third. Standing on the half-boards, Gomez threw an off-balance wrist shot at the net that just tipped of the stick blade of Chara, changing the pucks direction enough to catch goaltender Tim Thomas off-guard, who miss-played the puck, allowing it to trickle through the netminder’s legs.
Chara almost found redemption about a minute and a half later as his high-lofted clearing attempt from deep in his own zone came within inches of scoring on the empty net. The missed opportunity, however, spelled trouble as Montreal took their timeout following the icing, giving them the chance to get fresh legs on the ice and set their lineup. The Bruins could not clear the puck out of their end and, with the puck at the point, Montreal defenseman James Wisniewski stepped around a sprawled Shawn Thornton and sent a shot intentionally wide of the net to be tipped in by Brian Gionta, tying the game at 2-2 with just 47.7 seconds left on the clock.
The Bruins did not fair any better in overtime as an early penalty on Blake Wheeler allowed Montreal to keep rolling. Montreal outshoot the Bruins 5-0, barely allowing the Bruins to poses the puck in the offensive zone. Just after the midway point of the extra frame, Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban sent a blue line to blue line, cross ice pass to Max Pacioretty, who walked into the high slot and beat Thomas high stick side to give Montreal the 3-2 win.
With yet anther disappointing performance, the Bruins were left with only a couple of things to celebrate for their effort. By going into overtime, they were able to record a point, which keeps them in first place, though they are now tied with the Canadiens. There was also the play of forward Patrice Bergeron, who recorded both of Bruin goals in the defeat. The two-goal outing gives Bergeron five goals and seven assists in his past 11 games.
Bergeron has come under a lot of heat around town over the past two seasons, even more so this year after the cap-strapped Bruins signed him to a three-year, $15-million contract extension the day before the season. Many Bruins fans yearn for the Bergeron of younger years when the then 20-year old Bergeron stepped up to lead the Bruins in goals (career-high 31), assists (42) and points (career-high 72) in the wake of the Joe Thornton trade in 2005-2006, the forward’s second year in the league. Since that time, however, Bergeron’s production has tailed off, with goals and assist totals dropping off over the past four season. Bergeron did tie David Krejci last season for the team lead in points (52) and is just one point behind Milan Lucic’s team-leading 27 this season, but many will criticize Bergeron’s failure to be the dominating offensive force many thought he would be when he broke into the league seven seasons ago, wondering if he is worthy of the extension and being the second highest paid Bruins forward.
Bergeron is worth it. He’s worth every dime of it. Patrice Bergeron is your most valuable Boston Bruin.
I can already hear the reactionary uproar of all the fantasy geeks out there and outrage of the pundits who just look at the numbers as I type these words. To a point, those folks have some right to feel that way because as a fantasy hockey player Bergeron does not have much value. As much as I might wish life were a fantasy sometimes, though, this is unfortunately the REAL world, and it is that real world value that makes Bergeron the most important man on the Bruins roster.
Patty B is everything you want in a hockey player. Tough. Gritty. Well rounded at both ends of the ice. Does the job that is assigned to him and does it to the T. Dominant in the face-off circle (led all centers who took at least 1,300 face-offs in 2009-2010 at 58%), taking as many of Boston’s key draws as possible. Quarterbacks the power play and is the Bruins top penalty killing forward. And, even if the numbers aren’t there, which they should not be in his role as the center of a defensive line on an overly defensive team, last night proved he does have offensive flair to his game.
Bergeron’s importance cannot be measured in numbers, but rather his impact on the ice, demonstrated perfectly by two shining examples from last season. First, it was not just that he made the Canadian roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics over frequent All-Star Canadian centers like Steven Stamkos, Brad Richards and teammate Marc Savard, not to mention the smattering of other high-powered Canadian forwards left off the roster, but Bergeron often found himself one the ice in late situations, taking key draws for the gold medalists, and often playing against opponents’ most talented lines. The second came on April 10, 2010 as the B’s played the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that could clinch a playoff berth for Boston. Early in the third period with Boston up one, Carolina was called for a delayed penalty. As Tuukka Rask came to the bench and Bergeron hopped on the ice as the extra attacker, an errant pass sent the puck towards the empty net. Bergeron tracked the puck down, preventing it from going in the goal with the puck already deep in the crease, preserving the Boston lead. The Bruins went on to win 4-2 and clinch a playoff spot.
Many will argue that a player worth $5-million a year should prove themselves on the score sheet every night. Bergeron, however, is not one of those players. While he may never win a scoring title or routinely break the 30-goal plateau as once hoped, with his supreme defensive play, special teams and intangibles, Bergeron is worth the money. He is a complete player, unlike anyone else on the team, defining that image of a tough player for which everyone yearns in this era of soft Bruins play.
Patrice Bergeron is your most important Boston Bruin.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.