So when Marc Savard was hit into the boards by — of all people — Matt Hunwick on Saturday afternoon in Denver, everyone could hardly breathe while waiting for the Bruins’ center to get up.
Just 10 months removed from the vicious hit from Matt Cooke, and less than two months into his season after sitting out 23 games with post-concussion syndrome, the last thing Savard needed or wanted was another head injury. That’s what he got, though, as he was diagnosed with a moderate concussion and has no timetable for a return just yet.
While there is reason for concern for the 33-year-old Savard, there is at least a bit of reason for optimism, and it comes from his teammate, Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron’s phenomenal young career was halted rather quickly in the 2007-08 season when, in late October, he was thrown headfirst into the boards by Randy Jones. The damage was a Grade 3 concussion, one that kept him off the ice for the remainder of the season.
The then-22-year-old worked hard to return to the Bruins, though, and by the following preseason, Bergeron was cleared to participate fully. He scored four goals and registered 14 assists in his first 31 games, which was well off the pace he had established before the concussion but showed encouraging signs for his recovery. However, it was in that 31st game on Dec. 20, 2007, that he collided with Dennis Seidenberg, then of the Carolina Hurricanes, and again lay motionless on the ice.
The hit was frightening on a number of levels, and many feared the worst. He was diagnosed with another concussion, and there was no timetable placed on his return.
Despite those fears, Bergeron was back on the ice a little more than a month later. On Jan. 27, 2008, Bergeron returned to game action, setting up Savard for the game-tying goal in the second period against the Capitals — a game the Bruins would eventually win in overtime. He would finish the season with 39 points in 64 games, but more importanly, he finished with his health intact. He returned to form the following year, winning a gold medal in the Olympics for Team Canada and tying David Krejci for the Bruins’ team lead in points. This season, he leads the team with 39 points, playing in all 49 games.
Similarly, when Savard returned to the Bruins this season, it was a highly emotional affair. Savard came out with reckless abandon, showing no fear and even dropping the mitts against Atlanta in December. Though the fire was there, it clearly wasn’t the same Savard who averaged 87 points in his first three seasons in Boston. He needed some time to get caught up to the speed of the NHL, but his four assists in his last six games were a sign that he was perhaps turning a corner. Instead, he hit a roadblock.
While the image of Savard struggling to get to his feet in Denver won’t go away soon, Bergeron’s story provides some hope that Savard’s second concussion since March won’t be devastating to his career.
Of course, when it comes to head injuries, it’s not as simple as comparing one to the other. There are several factors that contribute to recovery, and the fact that Savard has 13 years on his NHL odometer might make his journey back to the ice that much harder.
Still, in a situation devoid of much positivity, Savard can at least look to his teammate for inspiration.
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