In a season highlighted by frustration and inconsistency, one player the Boston Bruins have been able to rely on nearly every game is Patrice Bergeron.
The veteran center didn’t have a great start to the campaign, but it’s impossible to find a Bruins forward who makes more of a positive impact in all three zones than Bergeron.
In a must-win game Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bergeron scored two goals, including the game-winner at 2:43 of overtime, to end Boston’s three-game losing streak and vault the Bruins back into a wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
In a game where the Bruins lost the puck possession battle with the Penguins owning a 70-49 shot attempt edge (39-24 advantage in shots on goal), Bergeron managed to be a plus-4 Corsi at even strength by being on the ice for 17 B’s shots for and 13 against. His five shots on goal led all Bruins players. In fact, Bergeron was one of only three Bruins forwards with a positive scoring chance differential (plus-2) at even strength.
Bergeron also won 67 percent of his faceoffs, including a 7-for-8 mark on special teams draws and 3-for-4 head to head against Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
Bergeron’s performance is even more impressive when you consider that he centered two new linemates (Milan Lucic and Daniel Paille) and also was a positive puck possession player against Crosby’s line. B’s head coach Claude Julien shortened his bench and played just three lines for most of the final two periods and overtime, which contributed to Bergeron playing a season-high 21:34.
In addition to his strong 5-on-5 play, Bergeron also excelled in his 2:58 of penalty kill time — the most among B’s forwards. His 3-for-4 mark on shorthanded draws helped the Bruins go 4-for-4 on the penalty kill against a Penguins power play that entered Wednesday with the fifth-best success rate.
Bergeron’s two points increased his team-leading total to 30 (10 goals, 20 assists) through 40 games. He’s also among the league leaders in puck possession and faceoff percentage, while averaging more than 3:30 of special teams ice time per game.
If the Bruins are going to turn their season around and build on Wednesday’s win, Bergeron likely will be at the center of the resurgence. He’s tallied 10 points (five goals, five assists) in his last 10 games and hasn’t lost less than 50 percent of his faceoffs in any game during that span.
The best way for the Bruins to establish some consistency and climb the standings is the core players performing at a higher level in the second half of the season. One player who the Bruins don’t need to worry about in that regard is No. 37.
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