When Patrice Bergeron saved an errant Blake Wheeler pass from making it into the Bruins’ empty netin the third period of the Bruins’ 4-2 win over Carolina on Saturday — a win that clinched a playoff spot for Boston — there was at least one person at TD Garden that wasn’t awestruck at the amazing play.
"That play was just a perfect example of what Bergy has meant to this team this season," said veteran forward Mark Recchi on Sunday, after the Bruins beat the Capitals 4-3 in a shootout. "I really don’t think everyone realizes what he means to this team and how valuable he is. He is a natural leader that has really taken on that role this season both on and off the ice. He is just a heart-and-soul type player, and it’s been a pleasure to watch him grow into this role since I’ve been here."
With his balanced, two-way game, Bergeron has been a key piece to the Bruins' success through the frustration and adversity they have experienced this season. Bergeron tied David Krejci for the team lead in scoring with 52 points and also served as one of the best penalty killers. His on-ice performance continues to gain notoriety throughout the NHL, as proven by his selection to the gold-medal winning Canadian Olympic team — and now there is plenty of talk that Bergeron could be a nominee for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league's best defensive forward.
"You have to take a lot of things into account," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "Number one, he kills penalties and he kills them well. Number two, he plays against top lines all year and he's a plus player on a team that doesn't score much. That should tell you something as well.
"I don't think there's been anybody more reliable as a two-way player than [Bergeron]. There's no doubt that he should be considered, and he should be seriously considered. He led us in scoring, matching against good lines, he's a plus player and penalty killer along with everything else. How can you not take that guy seriously?"
But as Recchi pointed out, while Bergeron has seemingly perfected his game at a crucial time for his team, it’s what he has done behind closed doors, along with the passion he brings to practice every day, that may have been more important this season.
"Obviously, I’ve had the pleasure to play with plenty of great players and real leaders," Recchi said of his 21-plus seasons in the NHL. "But I really think I’m going to say the same about Patrice when I look back. I could tell playing against him, and even in the short time I was here last season, how good of a two-way player he was and just the talent he has. But what struck me was his passion and love for the game. That’s come through even more this season."
Recchi even drew out a flattering comparison to describe his teammate.
"He reminds me a lot of Saku Koivu, who I played with in Montreal, because he’s the type of leader that leads by example, but when it’s needed, he speaks and that’s why when he speaks, people listen," Recchi said. "They know that he doesn’t say much, so if he does have something to say, it’s going to be important and worth listening to. I’ve been lucky to have played with guys like Saku, and I can say the same about Bergy. He’s a class act and a true leader."