The Boston Bruins have accomplished what every hockey player in history has dreamed of. They did it in unprecedented fashion by winning three game sevens, beating the President’s Trophy Winners in the finals and going blow for blow with their arch rivals in the opening round. All of those are great team accomplishments, they speak to the togetherness of the unit. There are however some players who just don’t get the recognition they deserve, partly because they play so unselfishly, or because they aren’t being used to their fullest.
Over the course of his career in Boston, no player has been more consistently selfless on the ice than Patrice Bergeron. It often get’s ignored, in fact I doubt the main stream media has any clue about it, but he’s got more points in less games than media darling Ryan Kesler. This is despite the season after his first concussion that was statistically ruinous for him in any meaningful offensive category. With the sole exception of the year he spent rolling up and down the ice with Marco Sturm and Brad Boyes he’s also been far removed from playing with high end or even above average scoring talent.
In the last few years we’ve seen him yoked to expiring offensive talents, those for whom offense is a nice after thought and those who are playing with or just returning from significant injury. PJ Axelsson for all his huge contributions away from the puck was never going to be confused for an offensive dynamo any more than he was a supreme pugilist. Mark Recchi had several awe inspiring offensive seasons, but those were long past by the time he was make his critical contributions to the Bruins Stanley Cup run. While Brad Marchand had a solid season this year, last year he spent twenty games on Bergeron’s wing and got exactly 1 point. Fellow French Canadian Jordan Caron scored three goals in his 23 games with Boston last season. None of Caron’s goals were scored after his eighth game of the season and he was eventually reassigned to Providence.
We got glimpses of the offensively oriented version of Patrice Bergeron that has been kept cloistered by injury and line-mates last season. When Krejci was sidelined by injury, Bergeron was called upon to slide between Lucic and Horton and together the three became the most imposing line the Boston Bruins have iced since the 700lb Line. More than that he was the NHL’s First Star for January, tossing seventeen points on the board in fourteen games with a not too shabby +13 to go with it.
On a team that’s been starved for an offensive dynamo since the days of Oats and Neely, it seems odd they’ve misplayed one so thoroughly. You’d be hard pressed to find a comparable player that is more talked about than Ryan Kesler, and Bruins fans with varying levels of longing recall Phil Kessels offensive aptitude, and yet neither of them is as effective on a pure points per game basis. Ryan Kesler is plugging along with an average of 0.595 pts per game for his career, Phil Kessel is at 0.655 despite playing the last two seasons on a bottom feeder, and throughout all Bergeron is 0.739 points per game.
Imagine the difference maker Bergeron could be if welded to offensive players of higher output for just a moment or two. A few other facts about one of the NHL’s most underrated players; In this years playoffs, no Bruins forward was a + player in more games, no forward had more multipoint games, no Bruins player had more assists.
Offensively speaking, we’ve yet to see the best of Bergeron for an entire season. You have to wonder what that could be if given a lighter penalty killing load and more time on the powerplay and at five on five. The Bruins have a larder well stocked with superb players short handed, Paille, Campbell, Kelly, Peverley and Marchand spring to mind at forward, and Krejci has spent time on the PK as well. If Caron or Arniel make the team they too could be integrated into the shorthanded duties.
Based on his own play, and the talent around him on the team there is no reason to believe he can’t crack 30 goals (or more) again and or put together a fifty assist season. The seventeen points in fourteen game rampage Bergeron went on in January if projected out to a whole season works out to 99.57 points. Just trimming back his short handed minutes to allow for fresher legs 5 on 5 might spark a serious increase in scoring. With the end of the Tim Thomas epoch just over the event horizon, added offense will be at a premium and there’s no tool more valuable than the right one in hand.