Patrice Bergeron probably can’t remember the last time he entered the playoffs feeling good. The laundry lists of injuries he’s battled through in search of hockey’s ultimate prize is simply unreal. But that hasn’t stopped one of the best defensive forwards in National Hockey League history, who is an elite goal-scorer to boot. He has simply pushed through the pain.
Now, Bergeron has had more than three months to rest. Hopefully, that means the bumps, bruises, strains and fractures built up over a long, punishing season will have healed up, allowing him to focus on hockey and not on pain management.
In fact, now that the Bruins’ practice facility, Warrior Ice Arena, is open for limited, voluntary team practices, Bergeron has already been spotted in two separate practice sessions alongside a handful of his teammates. The fact that he was one of the first to return and seems raring to go is surely welcome news for the team and its legions of fans.
How Did He Do It?
Hockey players are tough. There are countless jaw-dropping tales recanting the painful injuries these guys have played through, especially in the postseason. However, one particular example involving Bergeron might just take the cake.
To say the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs were a roller coaster for Bergeron would be an understatement. At the highest point, he helped the Bruins come back from a four-goal deficit with less than 10 minutes left to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in amazing fashion. Then, of course, Boston went on to battle the Chicago Blackhawks in a hard-fought Cup Final.
However, even more incredible than his personal performance on the ice that postseason was what the hockey world would come to learn Bergeron was dealing with internally. It was revealed that he spent the night after Game 6 of that Blackhawks series in the hospital with a punctured lung. If that wasn’t enough, throw in the accompanying cracked rib, torn cartilage and separated shoulder.
The cracked ribs, the cartilage, even the punctured lung. I’d do it all again in a second.Patrice Bergeron, in a column he wrote for the Players’ Tribune in April 2017
While most people would have been relegated to bedrest while dealing with that level of trauma, Bergeron was, of course, playing Game 6. The Bruins lost the series, but the alternate captain was right there alongside his teammates, battling until the bitter end.
Same Old Story
The 2018-19 Bruins once again found themselves in the Stanley Cup Final, and Bergeron once again pushed through the grueling schedule, this time nursing a groin injury that continued to plague him into the 2019-20 season.
Sure, a groin injury isn’t as serious as a punctured lung and broken bones, but it is painful and unrelenting. Although the first line, of which Bergeron is the anchor, had a hard time finding its scoring touch as the team got deeper into the postseason, it certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.
Bergeron also missed a majority of the 2007-08 season and the entire 2008 playoffs after suffering a severe concussion. Concussions also forced him to miss part of the second round of the 2011 playoffs, the last year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, as well as missing some time in that ill-fated 2013 run.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Perhaps the most incredible part of those painful postseasons was that Bergeron put up stellar numbers each time. Any hockey historian looking back at his output in those years would never guess that such injuries plagued this player.
Again, the 2013 playoffs provide the best example. In that four-round stretch, Bergeron put up nine goals and six assists for 15 points in 22 games played. Of those goals, four came on the power play, two were scored in overtime and two were credited as game-winners.
Similarly, the concussion that kept him out of part of the 2011 playoffs certainly did not slow Bergeron down in the games he did play. In that postseason, he amassed six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 23 games. That included one power-play goal, two shorthanded goals and one game-winner.
In 136 postseason games played in his career, Bergeron has contributed 40 goals and 63 assists. Those lifetime 103 playoff points have included 28 scored with the man-advantage, four shorthanded points and seven game-winning goals, three of which were scored in overtime. In addition, the Quebec native has a career plus-42 plus/minus rating in the playoffs.
Of course, not all of Bergeron’s playoff success came despite injuries. And in many of the series in which he was playing hurt, he was much younger. Still, there is no indication that his skill level has dropped off one bit as the years have gone by. In fact, he had already scored 31 goals before the now-cancelled 2019-20 regular season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. That marks the third consecutive season the future Hall-of-Famer surpassed the 30-goal mark, and the sixth time in his career.
A Common Goal
There’s no question that last year’s Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Blues on home ice at TD Garden crushed Bergeron and his Bruins teammates. Given the long playoff run, the players didn’t have a whole lot of time during the summer of 2019 to heal their physical and emotional wounds and prepare to make a fresh start in the new season.
It was determined that Bergeron did not need to have surgery to repair his nagging groin injury, but he missed a decent chunk of games early in the 2019-20 campaign. A relatively lengthy absence seemed to have helped, but there is no doubt that by the time March rolled around, a lot of aches and pains had started creeping back in.
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This Bruins team is on a mission to finish what they started last season, and Bergeron will no doubt be a huge factor in making that happen if the playoffs go on as proposed. If he is indeed healthy coming into the postseason, that could spell real trouble for opposing teams.
I am a 46-year-old journalist living in the greater Pittsburgh area with my husband and two cats. I am a proud Penn State University alum. Hockey is life. Not much else needs to be said.