BOSTON — Patrice Bergeron is known as one of the NHL’s most complete players, but his all-around skill set isn’t often advertised with a pugilistic component. However, as he’s shown very infrequently, he can throw (and take) a punch or two.
Bergeron surprised the TD Garden crowd Saturday night when he dropped the gloves with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers in the second period of the Bruins’ eventual 4-1 win over Buffalo. It was just the third fighting major of Bergeron’s career, and the first that came in the regular season. The center’s other two fights came in the postseason, the first in 2009 against Montreal’s Josh Gorges and the second against Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin last spring.
It’s certainly not a go-to move for Bergeron, who’s obviously known for his incredible two-way play more than anything else. However, Bergeron’s not unlike any other player on the ice. He’s a grown man playing an emotional game, and if he feels like he has to defend himself, he’s going to do that. He felt that was needed Saturday night after Myers appeared to get a little carried way with stickwork below the belt and then also caught Bergeron up high with a cross check.
Despite its rarity, Bergeron was rather casual when describing how the fight came to be.
“Yeah, I mean it’s just I guess one of those things that it was in the heat of the moment,” he said. “And we were kind both going at each other – cross-checking each other – and we just decided to I guess you know obviously drop the gloves.”
Bergeron took initial exception to the stickwork, and the two exchanged words before actually dropping the gloves. The fight didn’t last long, and there weren’t any big blows landed, but it still got the point across.
“It’s part of the game, and we were both battling to get to the front — well, I was trying to get to the front and he was trying to obviously keep me away from his goalie,” Bergeron said. “And he’s a pretty tall guy so he got me in the face. But it’s part of the game also.”
There must be at least some apprehension on the Bruins’ part — and perhaps even Bergeron’s — when the gloves come off. Not only does Bergeron have a concussion history, but he’s one of the team’s most important players. The Bruins are banged up right now, and they can’t really afford an injury to anyone, let alone a player like Bergeron. But it’s an emotional game, and that’s not something Bergeron or anyone else in a similar situation is contemplating when flinging the gloves down and throwing punches.
“Well I mean obviously you don’t think about that when you’re on the ice and you’re fired up when you’re not happy with what just happened,” Bergeron explained. “I kind of realized pretty quickly that he’s pretty tall, you know it was tough he had a pretty good reach. But I mean you don’t think about it.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose job would be made even more difficult by potentially losing Bergeron for any period of time, didn’t really think twice about seeing arguably his best player fighting — at least he wouldn’t admit to any apprehension.
“Well he has to stand up for himself,” Bergeron said. “I couldn’t believe they didn’t call the cross check and the punch to the head.”
Bergeron did indeed stand up for himself, and he held his own, too. Just don’t expect that to become a staple of his already rounded game.