January 14, 2011

Points coming by the bushel for Bergeron

by Jesse Connolly

WILMINGTON -- Patrice Bergeron might not willingly admit he's playing as well as he ever has in his NHL career, but the roll the Bruins center has been on of late is hard to dismiss.

After notching a goal and an assist in the B's 7-5 win over the Flyers on Thursday night, Bergeron now has ten points in his last five games, highlighted by a hat trick against the Senators earlier in the week.

"I'm feeling good," said Bergeron, following the team's practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday morning. "It's nice to see the points getting there but, at the same time, I feel like I'm always trying to bring whatever (I can) to the team in order to win."

Since surprising many at camp back in the fall 2003, making the team as an 18-year-old fresh out of the QMJHL, Bergeron has simply always done everything he can to help the B's succeed.

In 2005-06, following an early-season swap that sent the Bruins captain and leading scorer Joe Thornton to San Jose, Bergeron took over as the top pivot for Mike Sullivan's squad. While the Bruins failed to qualify for the postseason, it certainly wasn't because No. 37's contributions were lacking.

Bergeron tallied a career-best 31 goals and 73 points, and followed that up with a 70-point campaign the following year under Dave Lewis. Many a fan, following the 6-foot-2 center's recovery from two concussions (the first of which cost him 72 regular season games in 2007-08), has pined for the return of the Bergeron of old.

"My role kind of changed a little bit from the past couple years," he said.

Upon coach Claude Julien's arrival, the new bench boss sought to get the most out of the two-way forward's defensive prowess. Bergeron was quickly cast as the anchor of the B's shutdown line, assigned the tall task of stopping the opponent's top line on a nightly basis.

It proved to be a role the Quebec native excelled at. Bergeron helped keep one offensive stud after another off the score sheet with Selke-worthy defensive play up front, all while still contributing down the other end of the ice and ranking among the league's best in faceoffs.

"Those details sometimes don't show on the score sheet, but I felt like I was doing that still," Bergeron said. "It's nice (scoring), but at the same time it's about helping the team as much as you can."

Asked what's changed from an offensive standpoint compared to the past few seasons, the 25-year-old pivot gave the simplest of replies.

"The puck is going in," Bergeron said.  "That's probably the only difference."

Should he continue on his current pace, Bergeron would wind up in the neighborhood of 27 goals, his best mark since that 31-goal campaign five seasons ago, as he currently has 14 tallies in the B's first 43 games.

Keep the good times rolling like he has of late, and that 31-goal season just might wind up being second best on Bergeron's resume when the 2010-11 regular season is all said and done.

"I'm just taking it a game at a time," Bergeron said. "I've just gotta keep playing my game and get those chances to score some goals."