BOSTON — On a Saturday night that saw a vintage Tom Brady performance in a New England Patriots playoff win, Boston’s best hockey player put on an impressive display of his own.
Patrice Bergeron scored two goals, one in the first and second periods, to propel the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. The veteran center also finished with five shots on goal, a plus-20 Corsi, logged 5:15 of special teams ice time and won 57 percent of his faceoffs.
His line, which included Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly, drove 78 percent of puck possession at even strength. Boston tallied 26 shot attempts and gave up just six when Bergeron was on the ice at 5-on-5.
Bergeron continued his ascent on the Bruins’ all-time scoring leaderboard as well. He’s now tied with Hockey Hall of Fame forward Cam Neely.
These kinds of games are nothing new for Bergeron, who’s established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s tallied 40 points in 44 games, driving puck possession at a top-tier rate (52.1 percent Corsi percentage), excelling on both the power play and penalty kill, and suppressing shot attempts against elite competition (evidenced by his league-leading 1.992 Corsi Rel QoC).
Bergeron has never been a finalist for the Hart Trophy. He doesn’t put up flashy offensive numbers and the analytics that help prove his immense value are not yet an integral part of the voters’ thought process. Make no mistake, though, very few players, particularly among forwards, have been more valuable to their team’s success than Bergeron this season.
— Tuukka Rask entered Saturday with 13 wins in 17 career regular-season games versus the Leafs, including a .937 save percentage. He stopped 27 of the 29 shots Toronto sent his way Saturday, including this brilliant diving stop with the glove in the first period.
— Rask had help, too. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug made a sensational save late in the third period when Rask mishandled a puck in the corner. Krug was able to stop the puck as the B’s cleared the zone. It arguably was the game’s most pivotal play.
“He’s bailed me out many times,” Krug said. “Right place, right time. Nothing more than that”
— The Bruins have killed off 48 of their last 50 penalties since Dec. 7, the best mark in the league. They were 4-for-4 against the Leafs.
“Well, (Friday) and (Saturday) we were kind of, you know, in trouble there, giving some chances,” Rask said of the penalty kill. “But we didn’t get scored on, which is great. We knew that we had to get better on that penalty kill, because early in the season it wasn’t our strength. But now we’ve kind of gotten back to our roots and killing some penalties.”
— The B’s had 60 shot attempts at even strength, twice as many as the Leafs. Boston did a nice job protecting the slot, too. Most of Toronto’s shot attempts from the danger areas were blocked or missed the net.
— Bruins head coach Claude Julien gave a brief update on injured center David Krejci, and it was a positive one.
“(He) skated today. So he’s coming along. That’s a good sign,” Julien said during his pre-game availability. “That’s basically where he’s at, and we’ll see, again – he’s now gone from week-to-week to probably more day-to-day. I wouldn’t say (Sunday), but getting closer.”
Thumbnail photo viaBob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images. Bergeron scoring graphic via Twitter/@myregularface