Bergeron takes losses, learning in stride
Patrice Bergeron is looking to make the most of the Bruins seven remaining games. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)
MONTREAL -- There are just seven games remaining in the Bruins' season -- including tonight's rematch against the Canadiens here -- and 20-year-old center Patrice Bergeron said he's hoping to make the most of the time left before the players leave for the offseason, or in some cases, for good.
Bergeron missed the morning skate Saturday because he wasn't feeling well, but he played that night because he didn't want to disappoint teammates, who were fighting to stay in the playoff race, or family members, who had ventured down from his native Quebec City to see him.
''Especially in Montreal, my family was here and the emotion was there, even though I wasn't feeling that well," said Bergeron, who, like many teammates lately, had flu symptoms. ''I wanted to play that game, it's just too bad that we lost. We had some chances, we just had to find the back of the net."
Instead, the Bruins were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention by virtue of a 2-0 loss. To a man, they tried to be upbeat after the game but the reality quickly set in. Despite that, Bergeron believes the adversity he has endured this season will make him a better player and a stronger person.
''There's a lot to learn from this year," he said. ''We struggled and we had some ups and downs. We had a lot of injuries and all that. I still consider myself in the learning process right now. I'm still learning and getting experience from the older guys. This year was a little tougher."
During 2003-04, his rookie season, Bergeron was just 18, and a great deal went right for him. There wasn't a lot of pressure because he wasn't expected to make the club only a few months after being drafted No. 45 overall. He also had veteran wing Marty Lapointe, who invited Bergeron to live with his family during the season, to ease the transition from junior hockey.
Bergeron was a Calder Trophy candidate until a shoulder injury forced him to the sideline, and teammate Andrew Raycroft wound up winning in a landslide.
During the lockout, Bergeron spent the year in Providence playing on a line with another up-and-coming forward, right wing Brad Boyes, and the two brought that chemistry to Boston this season. It only got better with the acquisition of left wing Marco Sturm from San Jose in the Joe Thornton trade.
''I felt very comfortable playing with Brad and Marco, and it would be awesome to continue that next year and for a couple of years," Bergeron said. ''We have a great core of young players right now and the future looks pretty bright.
''I've been playing with the same line for a while, but at the beginning of the year we had been switching around because so many guys went down [with injuries]. That was tough."
Even more difficult were the number of one-goal games the Bruins lost. Of the 75 contests they've played, 40 were decided by one goal and 13 were defeats in overtime or the shootout. Bergeron said those were the most difficult to swallow.
''It's unbelievable," he said. ''If you just counted the ones we lost in the shootouts, that's 8 points right there and it would be a huge difference. It's tough to look at it that way, but that is the reality of it.
''Maybe we'll practice more on the shootouts and we won't get too nervous. It was the first year, so maybe we were a little nervous about it; maybe next year we'll be more aware of what's going on and get time to practice the shootouts and breakaways."
In terms of the standings, there isn't anything riding on the remaining games, but Bergeron doesn't think motivation will be a problem.
''It's tough," he said, ''but you have to play for pride and the logo on the front of our jersey."
Defenseman Brian Leetch and right wing Glen Murray practiced with the team at the Bell Centre yesterday, and they expect to be back in the lineup tonight after missing Saturday's game. Leetch sat out because he was struck in the head by the stick of Sabres forward Daniel Briere last Wednesday, and Murray was sidelined because of his third bout with the flu. ''It just tops the year off right there," Murray said. ''I can't say much more than that. It's been a year I definitely want to forget." Leetch, who absorbed a blow near his right temple, skated for the second straight day and said he is symptom-free after having a headache and nausea. ''I think I'll play, no problem," Leetch said. ''I feel much better."