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Bergeron is Selke finalist

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / April 24, 2012
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It’s not just Patrice Bergeron’s effort on the offensive and defensive ends of the ice, it’s the trickle-down effect the Bruins center creates.

“You ask anybody that’s played with him, he makes them that much better of a player,’’ Chris Kelly said.

Kelly pointed to Bergeron’s usual linemates, Brad Marchand, the 23-year-old who in the last two seasons has 49 goals and 47 assists, and Tyler Seguin, the second pick in the 2010 draft who scored Sunday in overtime to force Game 7 vs. the Capitals.

When Kelly came to the Bruins last season from the Senators, one of the things he noticed was the subtle excellence of Bergeron’s game.

“He’s a guy you get more of an appreciation for when you play with him,’’ Kelly said. “Obviously, he’s an elite player in the league. Once you play with a player, you realize how important he is to the team, what a leader he is off the ice and obviously his ability to shut down top players in the league and also be a top offensive player as well.’’

On Monday, the NHL nominated Bergeron, an eight-year veteran, for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.

For the Bruins, Bergeron is that player. He was the league’s regular-season plus-minus leader (plus-36), he won a league-high 973 faceoffs, and blocked 67 shots (17th among forwards), doing it in a wholly unselfish way that has become infectious.

“I take pride in playing both sides of the rink and the little details in order to help the team win,’’ Bergeron said. “I think this award is somewhat I guess compensation for the guys that play on both sides of the ice.

“So yes I’m happy, but at the same time, I don’t really believe in individual awards as much as the team efforts. I think every time you’re nominated for an award like that it’s because of your teammates and the help of all of them.’’

David Backes of the Blues and Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings also were nominated.

“I’ve been saying that for years - he should be nominated - way before this year,’’ said defenseman Zdeno Chara. “He’s such a reliable guy on the ice. He plays all the situations. You can really count on him that he’s going to get the job done and it’s just a pleasure to have a teammate like that. He’s such a tremendous person and hard worker and always a leader that there’s no question in my mind that he should be the leader.’’

Against the Capitals, Bergeron has gone toe-to-toe with Alex Ovechkin, one of the NHL’s more skilled and powerful scorers.

“He’s been doing that for years,’’ said Chara. “He’s always playing against top lines and whatever job or task you ask from him, he’s willing to do that. It’s always huge to have somebody willing to play defense first before the offense, and not too many guys take so much pride in it as Bergy does.’’

The distinction between Ovechkin (38 goals, 65 points in a down year) and Bergeron (22 goals, 64 points) is clear.

“[Bergeron] has that offensive ability that he can be up there in league scoring without a doubt if he maybe played like some people played, not focusing on the defensive game as much,’’ Kelly said. “But he plays the game the way it should be played and he’s the reason why this team has such success.’’

Bergeron gritted out Game 6 Sunday after taking two hard hits Saturday that left him with an undisclosed injury. Bergeron played 19:41 in Game 6, had an assist on the Bruins’ first goal, and even though he took just one faceoff, coach Claude Julien said Bergeron was productive.

“He’s fine, guys,’’ said Julien. “The type of player that he is, he’s working through it. To me, I didn’t see a difference in the player at all as far as his play was concerned. The only difference you saw was him not jumping into that circle to take faceoffs.’’

If there’s anyone who thinks Bergeron is the Selke Award’s runaway winner, it’s Julien.

“In my mind, there’s no doubt that Patrice deserves this,’’ Julien said. “The way he’s played this year, the things he’s done to be nominated, how good he’s been defensively.

“He’s got two young players on each side of him, he’s played against top players all year long, and he’s the best plus player probably of that [Selke] group. Faceoff-wise, he’s been utilized in every situation - offensively, defensively, key situations. He’s done everything to deserve that. I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t win.’’

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