How can Bruins manage Patrice Bergeron to keep getting the most out of him?

How can Bruins manage Patrice Bergeron to keep getting the most out of him?

Today’s piece on Patrice Bergeron is the second in a 10-part series over the next two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand headed into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

Patrice Bergeron’s future with the Bruins is already mapped out. Barring anything truly crazy, Bergeron is going to retire a member of the Bruins, have his No. 37 raised up to the rafters soon afterward and be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the best two-way centers of all-time.

That much has been assured as Bruins President (and one of the B’s all-time greats) Cam Neely has nothing but good things to say about Bergeron’s ranking within the pantheon of Black and Gold greats at this point in his career.

“He’s up there. He’s as professional as they come, he’s prepared and he works hard,” said Neely in an interview with NBC Sports Boston. “He’s such a good leader by example and then when he does decide to talk. He ranks up there as one of the best Bruins to ever put on the uniform.”

Certainly all of that took on another level when he made a pregame speech to his B’s teammates ahead of Game 6 in St. Louis that assured a win, and brought the series back to Boston. Unfortunately, of course, Bergeron and Co. couldn’t close the deal in Game 7.

He’s still capable of being a No. 1 center at 34 years old entering his 16th NHL season and the 32 goals and 79 points in 65 games is the best offensive output of his NHL career. As with fellow longtime B’s great Zdeno Chara, however, Bergeron is no longer as young and capable of a massive workload as he was earlier in his career.

Bergeron missed 17 games this past season after missing 18 games the season prior, and he was hampered in the last few rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a groin issue that left him with just one goal, four points and a minus-4 rating in the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues. The injuries have also kept him from winning his NHL-record fifth Selke Trophy in the last couple of seasons. It’s hard to envision Bergeron staying completely healthy through an 82-game regular season at this point in his career based on the hard miles he’s logged over the last 15 seasons, and based on the need for him to play — and play a lot — in all situations.

Without a young No. 1 center replacement on the horizon for the Bruins, it will be up to Bergeron to again carry the load this upcoming season.

But the Bruins will manage his workload, manage his responsibilities and make certain they can get as much out of him as they can when it really matters: in the postseason.

“We started doing that a few years ago with where he starts on face-offs. A lot of times he would start in the D-zone and you have to go 200 feet to score. He was relied upon to take a lot of important face-offs in the D-zone, and we changed that,” said Neely. “We gave that responsibility to other players and that would give Bergeron a chance to start in the offensive zone. Obviously he’s a top penalty killer and he’s on the top power play unit, so he’s going to play a lot.”

What will be interesting is what they do with Bergeron’s line for the bulk of next season. Will David Pastrnak slot back up with Bergeron and Brad Marchand to keep the Perfection Line going after they had a bit of a power outage in the Stanley Cup Final?

Or will next season be the year that Bergeron and Marchand are paired with a younger player like Anders Bjork, or an experiment like Charlie Coyle is tried on their wing to give them the size, strength and power around the net that they most definitely lacked during the Cup Final vs. the big, strong Blues group?

That question will be answered over the course of next season where Bergeron will be expected to again be excellent as he’s been for the last 15 seasons in a brilliant, special career as one of the all-time greats in Bruins history.

Key stat: 1.22 – the points per game that Bergeron averaged this season in the best offensive campaign of his career. It was the first NHL season where No. 37 was a point-per-game player and bodes well for his offense over the next few seasons.

Bergeron in his own words: “It’s a lot of hard work to get to that point and to put yourself in that position and then it’s really tough to come out empty-handed. At this point it’s hard to focus on anything except that we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do.”

The biggest question he faces: Bergeron is at a point in his career when injuries will come, and when heavy usage could compromise some of the greatness that he brings to the ice. So making certain the Bruins can give Bergeron breathers during the long 82-game regular season will be vital, and finding younger players to ease some of his defensive and penalty-killing burden makes sense given his importance at the offensive end of the ice.

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Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Alex Ovechkin left no doubt about his 700th career goal in the NHL when he scored it on Saturday afternoon, and good for him.

It came from the opposite face-off circle from where No. 8 does most of his damage for the Washington Capitals power play, but it was still an Ovie one-time rocket that he roofed past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s really the way any milestone NHL goal should be for a legendary NHLer like Ovechkin.

It was one of many things to celebrate about the NHL on a jam-packed Saturday in February and it also reminded everybody the 34-year-old Capitals star is the premier goal-scorer and game-breaker of his generation. With 42 goals already on his ledger for this season while on a pace for 57 goals, it’s also clear the Russian scoring machine isn’t all that close to slowing down either.

He may pass by Mike Gartner (708 goals) on the all-time list as early as this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals could be attainable for Ovie as well. He’d have to play until he was 40 years old and continue to average 40 goals per season, but Ovechkin has put himself in position to at least have a shot at the Great One.

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It all begs the question as to which player will be next to hit the 700 goals milestone in the NHL.

Steve Stamkos may get there with 422 career goals at 30 years old with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s probably got the best chance of any NHL player over the age of 25 years old. He’s on pace for 39 goals this season and would need to stay on that pace until he was 37 years old to reach that mark, a possibility given his work ethic, his status in Tampa Bay, and an offensive game that’s centered around his one-timer on the power play.

But the guy with perhaps the best shot to get there in the future?

It’s got to be 23-year-old Bruins superstar David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 45 goals after scoring two more in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to the Canucks, and is on pace for 60 goals and 115 points in a monster season for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak is going to finish this season close to 200 career goals at just 23 years old, and arguably has 15 good seasons in front of him based on dazzling offensive skills once again prominently reliant on a deadly one-timer from the face-off dot.

All Pastrnak has to do is average 35 goals per season until he’s 38 years old to reach the 700-goal milestone at 38 years old, and he’ll get close to 800 career goals if he can average 40 goals per season over the next decade-and-a-half. Obviously, it’s dependent on Pastrnak remaining healthy and productive for a long, long time, but the Bruins right winger is in a position to accomplish some of these things after entering the NHL as its youngest player during his 2014-15 NHL rookie season.

Certainly, Pastrnak’s coach thinks he can get there, and the winger should be in line for massive numbers as long as he’s part of the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I’m going to say Pasta because I love the kid, and he’s young, and he’s scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked who might be the next 700-goal guy in the NHL. “I think it’s always about health, it’s always [about] are you surrounded by good players to help you? I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. [Pastrnak] has got good support. Yeah, I think he’s one of those guys. I haven’t looked close enough to [Steven] Stamkos’ age to see what – because you always have to project, but in terms of the younger guys, Laine could be that guy because he has such a terrific shot; you tend not to lose that. He’s always going to be on the power play. That’s what’s helped Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] obviously to be able to maintain his sort of marks on the power play.

“But I think a lot of it has to do with health. I would have to think about that one a little bit more about which guys probably after two, three years. Is [Nikita] Kucherov in that mix? Does he score enough, or does he pass too much? Brayden Point scores a lot of goals, but he’s also a disher at times. I think it does take a certain amount of shot-first mentality if you’re going to challenge that many. Auston

Matthews probably has to be in that conversation as well, the way he shoots the puck. There are guys out there, [but] it’s probably just a little early to predict with those younger guys.”

Similar to Pastrnak, the 22-year-old Matthews would need to average 35 goals per season for the next 15 years to get to the 700-goal mark. That’s a doable thing for a former No. 1 overall pick and a player that’s on pace for 56 goals of his own this season for the Maple Leafs. The same with 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who will finish with around 170 career goals after this season and would need to average 35 goals per season until he was 39 years old to reach that mark as well.

Put all of it together and it feels like Pastrnak and Matthews are the two most likely candidates to be the next 700-goal guys in the league, so let’s put this article in a time capsule and release it 15 years from now to how it all actually played out.

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

GOLD STAR: There were plenty of strong candidates for the Canucks in their blowout win, but give the credit to Tyler Toffoli for scoring a pair of goals in his second game for Vancouver since coming over in the trade with the LA Kings.

Toffoli is already making an impact with points in each of his two games for the Canucks while injuries are impacting their roster, but he was especially strong on Sunday with the two goals, three points and a plus-3 rating in 14:50 of ice time.

Beyond that, he matched Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat for the team-high with five shots on net as well while showing the Bruins what they missed out on by peeling back on the Toffoli trade talks. He was an impact player for the Canucks while Ondrej Kase continues to be on the sidelines hurt and not ready to play quite yet for the B’s.  

BLACK EYE: No shots on net and a minus-4 rating for Danton Heinen on a disastrously bad night for Boston’s second line. Heinen and David Krejci both tied for the team-worst with the minus-4 ratings and there was zero offensive push from Krejci, Heinen and Jake DeBrusk while an incredibly hungry, rested Vancouver team was waiting for them.

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The problem now for guys like Heinen is that their days with the Bruins are numbered now that Ondrej Kase is coming into the fold with a mandate to take opportunities away from them. It might even be that Heinen gets dealt given the surplus of middle-6 forwards on this Bruins roster right now. Heinen made a compelling case to not be a guy that sticks around in the loss to Vancouver.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were only losing 2-1 after the first period of play and things didn’t seem so bad for them at that point. But the weight of playing five back-to-back games this month finally left some collateral damage with the B’s when they fell apart in the final 40 minutes of the game.

Sloppy puck possession and good old-fashioned lack of execution led to three more goals being scored by Vancouver in the second period despite being outshot by a 12-8 margin and the rout was one once it was a 5-1 deficit for the Black and Gold. Truthfully, the Bruins never felt like they were in this game at all and they proved it with the way they played in the last couple of periods against the Canucks in humbling, embarrassing defeat.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak scored a pair of goals to push the Bruins sniper to 45 goals on the season. Pastrnak continues to lead the NHL in goals scored and is now pushing toward 50 goals scored on the season with just five remaining until he reaches a historic plateau that hasn’t been done in the Bruins uniform since Bruins President Cam Neely did it himself during his prime years in Black and Gold.

Pastrnak finished with the two goals scored and six shot attempts for the Bruins, but even he finished a minus-2 rating while just about every forward line didn’t get it done on multiple levels for the Bruins.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 – the number of years since the Canucks had a player with a Gordie Howe hat trick prior to Bo Horvat getting it done for Vancouver in Sunday’s win.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Tonight clearly we were not the better team. We didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t do what was required to win and we didn’t have much luck our way either. I think we’ve got the full value for a majority of the wins we’ve had coming out of the break, but tonight they were the better and hungrier team. - Bruce Cassidy, on the NESN postgame about the 9-3 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver.