Patrice Bergeron keeps driving the Bruins; Does he have an MVP argument?
The Boston Bruins continued to roll on Wednesday night by pretty much embarrassing the New York Rangers in their building by a 6-1 margin.
It was a laughably one-sided affair that saw Henrik Lundqvist get benched midway through the second period and several Rangers defenseman get completely embarrassed. Sometimes on the same play. Keep in mind this was a Bruins team that played on Tuesday night and a Rangers team that, well, had the night off and came in rested. It was just a poor, poor showing by the blue shirts.
The win helps the Bruins gain some additional ground on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division -- and the NHL -- and brings them to within one point while still having a game in hand.
After Wednesday’s win Boston is now 27-4-4 in its past 35 games, which is just an absolutely ridiculous run.
Leading the way on Wednesday night, once again, was the Bruins’ dominant duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
They were reunited after Marchand served his recent five-game suspension and wasted no time picking up where they left off.
Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the win (one of them a shorthanded goal that was set up by Marchand) to give him 24 on the season and continue what has been a mostly wonderful season. Given how well he has played all over the ice he is starting to get a little bit of a push in the MVP discussion. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said this week that Bergeron has been the best player in the NHL this season.
Is it something to take seriously?
Since this game was not even close to being competitive and was over from the middle of the second period, let us take a little bit of a dive into this.
It is not hard to see why Bergeron’s name would be entering into that discussion.
He centers the best line in hockey between Marchand and David Pastrnak and is the heartbeat behind one of the best teams in the league, a true Stanley Cup contender. He is a point-per-game player, one of the absolute best defensive forwards, and one of the top possession-driving players in the entire NHL.
There is nothing he does not do well.
But if Bergeron were to win the MVP award, or even end up as a finalist, history suggests it would require one of two things to happen over the second half of the season -- either Bergeron would have to go on a torrid scoring binge that brought him among the league’s top scorers, or the voters would have to change the way they vote for the MVP award.
Does either of those things seem likely?
After Wednesday’s game Bergeron has 46 points in 47 games, placing him 37th among the league’s scorers. Obviously missing seven games earlier in the season has put him behind the rest of the pack a little bit, but even if you look at him on a point-per-game level he is 25th in the league. Still great, especially when you combine his all-around play and the impact he makes all over the ice, but still not what we see from a typical MVP contender.
I went back over the past 20 years and looked at all of the forwards that either won the MVP award or were in the top-three of the voting.
Only five of them finished the season lower than fifth in the scoring race and only three were outside o the top-10.
Two of them finished tied for the league lead in goals, while another led the NHL in points per game. Another one finished in the top-three in the goal-scoring race. Here is that list.
- Teemu Selanne, a finalist in 1997-98, finished eighth in the points race ... but finished tied for the league lead in goals with 52.
- Alexei Yashin, a finalist in 1998-99, finished sixth in the scoring race
- Mario Lemieux, the runner up in 2000-01, finished 29th in the scoring race ... in a season where he only played in 43 games (this was his comeback season) and still finished with 76 points. He was the top point-per-game player in the NHL.
- Jarome Iginla, a finalist in 2003-04, finished 16th in the scoring race but also finished in a three-way tie for the NHL goal-scoring lead
- John Tavares, a finalist in 2012-13, finished 17th in the scoring race. He finished third in the goal-scoring race.
That is all pretty telling. Only three of them were outside of the top-eight, and one of those three was Mario Lemieux in one of the most baffling and mind-blowing seasons in NHL history.
In the eyes of the NHL awards voters (worth noting: I am one) you clearly have to be some sort of an elite scorer, whether it be as a goal-scorer or just a total point producer, to really get serious MVP consideration, and there is nothing to suggest otherwise. Just think of how many times people tried to call Jonathan Toews, a player whose skillset and production virtually mirrors Bergeron’s, the best player in the world because of his two-way play, and leadership, and intangibles, and whatever else you wanted to throw in there. Even at the peak of his popularity when his team was a Stanley Cup winning powerhouse he only finished in the top-five of the MVP voting once, and was never a finalist.
It’s just the way the voting goes.
As a voter, I can the see argument for Bergeron, and I would at least entertain it simply because of how good his line is, how good he is, and how I think he is probably the guy driving the bus for that trio (that is not to say Marchand and Pastrnak are not great players on their own -- Marchand is a top-tier player in the NHL).
But there is still something to be said for being an elite scorer and having that ability. So for as great as Bergeron is, and as great as his season has been, history is not terribly kind for him when it comes to his MVP chances.
He might just have to settle for being the No. 1 center on a team that has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup.