Bruins

Patrice Bergeron serves one of his annual reminders of his greatness

Patrice Bergeron serves one of his annual reminders of his greatness

BOSTON – Every once in a while Patrice Bergeron decides to remind everyone why he’s one of the best hockey players in the world.

The 33-year-old Bergeron did that again in Monday afternoon’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators in the B’s home opener at TD Garden with the fourth hat trick of his 15-year NHL career. That he did it in just his third game back after missing the entire preseason with back spasms only adds to Bergeron’s degree of difficulty and serves as a reminder that we’re watching something pretty special every time the Black and Gold take the ice.

Sure, Bergeron isn’t an 18-year-old kid anymore and missing nearly all of training camp was at least in part to avoid some of the nagging injuries that have caused him to miss time early in each of the previous two seasons. But even at 33 years old Bergeron is the best player on the Bruins roster and is still the best two-way center in the NHL capable of shutting down the other team’s best players, dominating in the face-off circle and occasionally dropping the old three-goal barrage against an unsuspecting team like the Senators.

“I’m impressed with everything Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] does to be honest with you. He plays at both ends. We use him in every situation, so good for him to get us going on time tonight,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on Bergeron. “Usually we rely on him to give us a good start, may take away from, if we’re looking at certain matchups. But we like to start them simply because they generally get the puck and get going on the other end, put them on their heels.”

Bergeron showed a little bit of everything in the four-point game against Ottawa. On the first shift of the game Bergeron and Co. kept Ottawa hemmed into their zone, and then Bergeron pounced on a loose puck at the goal line after David Pastrnak took it hard to the net. Later in the period, Bergeron showed his deadly shooting skill by sniping a top corner bid from the right face-off circle after Brad Marchand had deftly slid a drop pass back to him.

Then in the third period, Bergeron made perhaps the most elite play of the day when he snapped a backhanded saucer pass across the ice to Pastrnak crashing the far post, and Pastrnak was able to sweep the landing back into the back of the net. It was super high-skill at both ends of the play and clearly illustrated why the Perfection Line continues to be the best forward trio going in the entire National Hockey League.

“It’s phenomenal. You see why guys are so connected with him and why he’s such a great player in this league. He’s not out there just cherry-picking and finding the easy ones. He works for every inch that he gets and he’s doing all the ugly stuff, along with scoring the goals,” said David Backes. “You can’t be happier for a guy that is able to play a 200-ft game. He’s responsible defensively, he goes out for all the hard shifts in the D-zone, the penalty kill, and then gets his reward on the power play.

“The hat-trick is great, but that backhand pass saucer, that lands on Pasta’s stick on the backdoor, I don’t get it. We might have to have a talk tonight and he can explain that to me. Maybe I’ll implement it next game.”

As Backes referenced, it wasn’t just the offense production telling the whole story for Bergeron either. Bergeron and Co. shut down the Ottawa players they were matched up with, Bergeron won 14-of-24 faceoffs over the course of the game and it was No. 37 that set the tone by scoring on the game’s very first shift. After a weekend off and an afternoon matinee on a Monday, the Bruins could have very well snoozed through the opening moments of the home opener against a pitiful Ottawa group.

Instead, Bergeron showed leadership by injecting his energy into the game and setting a lead for the rest of the Bruins to follow. That’s something that truly great players do when they’re at the top of their games, and Bergeron is still there even as he approaches the notable 1,000 NHL games played mark in the middle of the season.

The one thing that you won’t get from Bergeron, though: Don’t bother trying to get him to do any talking about himself and his accomplishments.

“Yeah [the hat trick] is [nice]. It’s one of those things that is kind of not necessarily always part of my game or something you see often,” said Bergeron. “They’re definitely nice to have, but like I said, one was a lucky bounce and great plays on the first two by Pasta [David Pastrnak] and Marchy [Brad Marchand].”

It’s pure, unselfish Bergeron to credit lucky bounces and his teammates for him scoring three goals and providing the Bruins with their first iconic moment of the 2018-19 season. But those watching him for the last 15 years know that they’ve been watching something special in No. 37, and no amount of modesty is going to tone that down.   

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

There’s quite the interesting debate going on these days about just how much Bruins RFA defenseman Charlie McAvoy should get on his second contract.

NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk tweeted out a story proclaiming that both McAvoy and Columbus Blue Jackets D-man Zach Werenski should be in line for “huge contracts” and conjured up some numbers that put those two young defenseman in a class with Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson at the same stage of their careers.

Certainly the 21-year-old McAvoy and 21-year-old Werenski have shown promise as excellent puck-movers and developing two-way D-men in their short NHL careers. But to lump the two of them together into the same class is not something I’m sure the Bruins would do at this point in their separate negotiations.

First off, both Doughty and Karlsson were Norris Trophy finalists before they got their massive contracts. Secondly, do you know how many games Doughty missed with injuries before he signed his eight-year, $56 million contract?

He missed seven NHL games with injuries in his first three seasons with the Kings, including just one in his first two seasons in Los Angeles. Doughty also put together a 16-goal, 59-point masterpiece sophomore season, all while averaging 24 plus minutes of ice time per game over those first three NHL seasons in L.A.

All due respect to a special talent in McAvoy who idolizes Doughty, but he hasn’t even been close to that kind of dominance yet in his very promising, young NHL career. He was brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he's shown big time flashes for the B's, but he's also missed almost 50 games with injuries over the last two years. 

Werenski has averaged 13 goals and 40 points in his three NHL seasons with Columbus and missed a total of nine NHL games in his first two seasons before playing the full 82-game schedule this past season for the Blue Jackets. He’s a lot closer to Doughty in terms of a comparable situation at this point in his young NHL career.

Werenski has the ability to be offer-sheeted by other prospective NHL teams, and has all the makings of an RFA who could cash in on something similar to the massive eight-year, $60 million deal signed by Florida’s Aaron Ekblad a couple of seasons ago.

McAvoy, on the other hand, has topped out at seven goals and 32 points in the better of his two NHL seasons (his rookie campaign) and has missed a whopping 47 games due to injuries in his first two seasons. McAvoy also can’t be tendered with an offer sheet by other NHL teams because he has fewer than three full years of NHL service based on the 40-game rule adopted by the league when it comes to restricted free agents.

So really there are very few parallels between Werenski’s negotiating leverage right now and McAvoy’s situation headed into his third NHL season with Boston.

If McAvoy wants to get the “huge contract” with the B’s then he’s going to have to earn it with a dominant, healthy season that he has yet to put together at the NHL level. It’s really as simple as that, regardless of his Corsi numbers when he has been healthy over the last two seasons.

The best course of action for both the Bruins and McAvoy?

It would be sign a bridge contract for a couple of years where the young D-man gets the $5-6 million per season based on his closest comparable players (Esa Lindell, for one), and puts together the kind of years that would put him closer to the Doughty/Karlsson/Ekblad max contract neighborhood that he’s clearly aspiring to at this point.

Basically, McAvoy at this point will need to sign the qualifying offer given to him by the Bruins or sit out until he agrees to a long-term second deal with the Boston. The reality is this: The Bruins young D-man has zero leverage this time around in negotiations aside from being a key player for the B's in both their present and future plans. Then again, the Bruins did pretty well in the first half last season when McAvoy was barely a presence while battling through concussion-related issues, and before he put together a very strong second half and postseason during their run to Game 7 of the Cup Final.

There’s no reason to think they can’t do the same this season with a Stanley Cup Final-worthy group if McAvoy’s camp plays hardball and holds out ahead of NHL training camp.

All signs point to McAvoy getting a big raise and eventually getting the cap-busting contract that he’s clearly going to be looking for, and he could get it as soon as a year from now at this time. But the 21-year-old needs to earn it first, and shame on Don Sweeney and the Bruins if they shell out tens of millions of dollars on an admittedly talented, highly-gifted player before he’s done the kind of things that earn players that type of money at the NHL level.

Why Heinen signing left B's with cap questions>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Ex-Bruin Ryan Donato re-signs with Minnesota Wild on two-year deal

Ex-Bruin Ryan Donato re-signs with Minnesota Wild on two-year deal

Ex-Bruins forward Ryan Donato will be staying in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

The 23-year-old, who was traded from the B's to the Wild for Charlie Coyle on Feb. 20, signed a two-year deal worth $3.8 million on Tuesday.

Donato played well after joining the Wild last season, notching 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 22 games. The Scituate native tallied 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 46 total games with Boston over two years.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.