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.