Bergeron finding his stride
WILMINGTON - Patrice Bergeron was on the giving end of each of Tyler Seguin’s three strikes in the Bruins’ 7-0 win over Toronto Saturday night. Bergeron has a point in each of his last six games. During that stretch, he has three goals and five assists.
Yet Bergeron has felt no different, he said, than when he failed to score in four games (one win, three losses).
“I feel the same,’’ Bergeron said after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “The games I didn’t have any points, I was creating a lot of chances. We missed a lot in the first couple of games especially. It’s just the way it is sometimes, you know? Sometimes they go in. [Saturday] night was the perfect example. Seggy’s second goal, it’s a great play by him. But it’s a little bit of luck. Just the way it goes sometimes. You’ve got to keep plugging at it, keep working through it. I’ve felt fine.’’
It is Bergeron’s straight-line approach that has made him one of coach Claude Julien’s more trusted players. Every time Julien taps Bergeron on the shoulder, he knows that his center will submit a consistent shift, regardless of the situation.
Because of how reliable Bergeron has become, when he’s scoring or otherwise, he has developed a reputation as one of the more dependable all-around players in the game. Think of Daniel Alfredsson, Martin St. Louis, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrick Sharp - not necessarily game-breakers, but highly trusted by their coaches.
“When you have players on the ice, certain players really make you feel comfortable,’’ Julien said. “They always seem to be in the right place. He’s one of those guys that really reads the plays well. Very seldom do I have to go up to him on the bench and correct him or tell him to make certain adjustments. He’s pretty good.
“When he does get caught out of position a little bit, his work ethic just kicks in. He works twice as hard to get back. Those are players that earn the confidence of their coaches as they go along. That’s why right now, he’s known around the league as one of the better two-way players. He’s earned that reputation.’’
The alternate captain’s consistency has led to the most tangible reward: more playing time. Bergeron is averaging 19:30 of ice time per game, the most he’s ever skated under Julien. His previous high was in 2006-07 under Dave Lewis, who tabbed the center for 20:48 of playing time per appearance.
Bergeron’s increased workload is related to the team’s slow start. Because David Krejci hasn’t found his rhythm, Bergeron has assumed some of his shifts. The Bruins also have put themselves into tough spots - being down a goal late in the game, or taking penalties when they need to remain at full strength.
In those situations, when Julien has needed a faceoff win or thorough shorthanded shift, he’s turned to Bergeron. For good reason.
Bergeron has won 56 percent of his draws. Among regular draw men, he ranks No. 12 in the league in winning percentage. Bergeron is averaging 2:18 of shorthanded ice time per game, most among team forwards. On the power play, he is skating a team-high 3:39 per game. Of late, Bergeron has been manning the right point alongside Joe Corvo.
“He’s been asked to take a lot of faceoffs. Then sometimes he gets stuck on the ice,’’ Julien said. “I’ve leaned on him more in the faceoff circle this year than other years. Our other guys now are kind of picking up in that area. Once that stabilizes itself and once all the players find their games, we might be able to pull him back a little bit. But he seems to be able to handle it. If he’s able to handle it, it’s easy for me to use him in those situations.’’
As an offensive catalyst, Bergeron traditionally has been behind Krejci on the team’s depth chart. Krejci has shown to be the more dynamic playmaker. But Krejci (2-2-4, nine games) exhibits the peaks and valleys that are absent in Bergeron’s game.
Now, with Seguin on his right side, Bergeron could pile up more points than Krejci. Last year, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Mark Recchi had more of a hard-hat, two-way identity. Because of Seguin’s breakaway speed and finishing touch, opposing coaches might be rolling out their top defensive pairings and checking threesomes against Bergeron’s line.
“On the rush, we have more chances,’’ said Bergeron, noting Seguin’s speed. “On the forecheck, we have to adjust to be a little more in synch. With Rex, we always knew where he was going to be. In the offensive zone, I knew he was going to be in front. We’ve just got to read a little more. [Seguin’s] a great player, so it’s always fun to have guys like that on your side.’’
The Bruins kick off a five-game homestand tonight against the Islanders. By next Thursday, when they host Columbus, the Bruins will have completed a 17-game stretch that includes 13 home dates. So far, the Bruins are 3-5-0 at home. With a win tonight, they could vault over the 14th-place Islanders. “This week is a big week for us,’’ Julien said. “The schedule’s going to get a little busier now. It’s nice to see our team getting better now. If you can get yourself on a roll, it’s a good time to play more games.’’ . . . Rich Peverley was given a maintenance day yesterday. Peverley has missed the last three practices.