Patrice Bergeron’s Gutsy Performance in Playoffs Leaves Little Doubt That He Is Bruins’ Leader

Patrice Bergeron's Gutsy Performance in Playoffs Leaves Little Doubt That He Is Bruins' LeaderIn all reality, it was probably just a slip of the tongue from Brad Marchand, but it certainly was telling, intent or not.

The pesky Bruins forward, appearing on the NHL36 episode featuring Patrice Bergeron said this, as the linemates and a few other players gathered for dinner in Phoenix.

"Patrice Bergeron," Marchand declared at the dinner table, "our leader, our captain."

Technically, the honor of Bruins captain belongs to Zdeno Chara, and he truly deserves that honor. Yet, it's becoming pretty evident that the real leader of the Bruins is Bergeron.

On the surface, it's somewhat easy to undersell Bergeron's worth to the Bruins. He doesn't play a flashy game where he pours in 50 goals per season, although he does have undeniable offensive talent. He doesn't lay guys out with open-ice checks, although he's not afraid to play the body or mix it up when needed. And he's not someone who gets his teammates and the crowd going with a fight every few games, although he can certainly land a pretty good punch.

Instead, however, Bergeron's worth comes in the little things, the things that don't usually show up in the box scores. Those are the same things, though, that lead to wins and losses, with the Bruins racking up a lot more of the former than the latter in Bergeron's time in Boston.

That's why it was so tough to see Bergeron struggle through the tail end of the Bruins' first-round series with the Washington Capitals. In the coming days, we'll almost certainly find out that Bergeron was playing through some sort of nagging injury in the last two or three games of the series at least. 

Yet, Bergeron continued to play through it. He clearly wasn't himself, but he wasn't hurting his team at the same time, either. He wanted to be on the ice, but you have to think that if Bergeron knew there was a chance he'd be a liability because of an assumed injury, he would have made the difficult decision to pull himself from the lineup. He's a tough guy, but he's always put the team first.

Without Bergeron at 100 percent, however, the Bruins struggled through the end of the series with the Capitals. It wasn't always necessarily apparent — although the results certainly speak for themselves — but Bergeron was missed in all three zones.

Bergeron took two face-offs total in Games 5 and 6 combined (and he won them both). To put that in perspective, Bergeron took 1,641 draws in the regular season, the fourth most in hockey. That comes out to an average of 20 face-offs a night. With Bergeron out of commission in the dot, Rich Peverley was forced to step in, going just 11-for-26 in Game 7.

All in all, the Caps won the face-off battle which was one of the key factors in the Caps' win. It made playing the defensive style Washington so badly wanted to play that much easier to employ. That advantage also made it even more difficult for a struggling Bruins power play to get going.

The Caps won 54 percent of the face-offs in Game 7 and 51 percent in Game 6 without the help of Bergeron, who won 59.3 percent of his draws during the regular season.

"That's where a guy like Bergeron comes in handy," admitted head coach Claude Julien when pressed about the impact Bergeron's absence from the face-off circle makes. "And when you win draws, you start with the puck, so we didn't start with the puck as much as we'd like tonight, and that certainly wears on you throughout the game."

It wasn't just in the face-off dot that the Bruins could have used a "healthy" Bergeron. He's arguably the best three-zone forward in hockey right now, and throughout those final two or three games of the series, he just wasn't. He was still good, but he wasn't necessarily the man who was just nominated for the Selke Award. If we operate under the assumption that it's some sort of upper-body injury that Bergeron was fighting with, then it's easy to see why he wasn't as strong on his stick or able to win battles for the puck like he usually can.

If you're looking for Bergeron to make excuses for anything injury-related, you're never going to find it. The consummate professional, Bergeron wasn't even ready to end the suspense about a potential injury, let alone blame it for anything.

"It's there, it was a little better but not much better but like I said, I don't want to use that as an excuse right now," a dejected Bergeron told reporters after the game. "It's a tough one to swallow and I really don't want to put that on an injury. I'm not the only one that goes through stuff."

Things like the face-offs, the two-way style of play and the overall contributions on the ice were surely missed for the Bruins in that series. But what wasn't lacking, and won't be for the rest of Bergeron's time in Boston, will be the leadership, the accountability and all of the other things that don't show up on the game summary.

It's a tired cliche to say that some players do all of the things that don't show up in the box score. That cliche stems from players like Patrice Bergeron. Add it all up, and you realize what Bergeron really is to the Bruins.

Their leader. Their captain.

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