There was more pomp and circumstance for Patrice Bergeron’s 1,000th career NHL game on Saturday, but the Bruins nearly wasted that pregame ceremony with another blown two-goal lead against a team beneath them in the league standings.
Bergeron, fittingly enough, came to the rescue in overtime, as the Bruins survived a scare from the Los Angeles Kings. Here is what we learned following their 5-4 victory.
Patrice Bergeron’s performance caps off his eventful afternoon
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 9, 2019
Bergeron’s illustrious achievements — including his four Selke trophies and one Stanley Cup ring — speak for themselves. He isn’t one to relish in the spotlight, though. Ask him about one of his spectacular outings and you’ll hear him compliment his teammates for their effort after every victory.
Saturday was different. Bergeron embraced the honors for his 1,000th career game — which took place Tuesday night — as past and present teammates and fellow Boston icons showered him with gifts and a pregame video tribute.
“It was very special to have the family on the ice and my kids, I was definitely trying to enjoy it,” Bergeron said. “I doubt there’s going to be 1,000 more so I doubt there will be another ceremony, so I was trying to soak things in, I guess.”
The ceremony paved way for the business in hand in Bergeron’s 1,0002nd career NHL tilt. Whether it was a no-look pass to Charlie McAvoy, a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush with his fellow partner in crime Brad Marchand, or his overtime winner, the 2003 second round pick gave the capacity crowd of 17,565 at TD Garden their money’s worth.
Bergeron makes things seem perfect every time he touches the puck. But Marchand had an even better answer when a reporter asked him if ‘pro’ is an apt way to describe his teammate.
“Yeah, or God. One of the two,” Marchand said to a round of laughter from media scribes. “No, he is. He’s the ultimate pro, the way he conducts himself and prepares himself each and every day and shows up consistently and in the big moments continues to prove himself. So, yeah, pro is a great word, but I think God is a little more fitting.”
A fitting quote to an afternoon perfectly fit for Bergeron.
Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy take a big a step forward
Danton Heinen creates space feeds Bergeron and a beautiful Bergeron pass gives McAvoy a tap in
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) February 9, 2019
The Bruins’ lack of secondary scoring remains a sore spot. Addressing the top-six need is arguably general manager Don Sweeney’s biggest priority between now and the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
Things haven’t been easy for head coach Bruce Cassidy in his attempts for a well-rounded lineup. His latest attempt at finding a more balanced lineup came during the second period Wednesday night against the Rangers, when the third-year Bruins bench boss broke up the potent top trio of Marchand, Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.
Danton Heinen took Pastrnak’s spot on the top line in New York and notched his first goal since Jan. 19. He stayed on that top line Saturday and provided another timely delivery to tie things up in the third period with his eighth goal of the season.
Charlie McAvoy, who set up Heinen’s equalizer, is also in a similar sophomore slump. Yet, even with Brandon Carlo recently getting another look on the top defensive unit, Cassidy isn’t keen on breaking McAvoy away from Zdeno Chara. The patience paid off on Saturday, as McAvoy also added a goal on Bergeron’s no-look pass for his second of the season — and first since Oct. 13.
Great no-look pass by Patrice Bergeron sets up Charlie McAvoy's second goal of the season.
Great work by Danton Heinen leading up to the goal. pic.twitter.com/1lgfFyTDbH
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 9, 2019
“They expect like a lot of them,” Cassidy said about Heinen and McAvoy. “I think there’s a reason they call it the sophomore slump. Everyone assumes it’s going to go even better than the first year, myself included. I put myself in with them. You have to work your way out of it and stay with it, and I think they’re doing that.”
Regardless of potential upgrades, the Bruins need their second-year pros to step up. Jake DeBrusk, who moved to the third line amid all the changes, hasn’t scored in over a month. Ryan Donato needs to find his game again in Providence. But McAvoy and Heinen’s upward trend of late is an encouraging sign for a Boston squad searching for more consistency as it enters the home stretch.
The Bruins need to find their killer instinct
There are some areas of concern that go beyond roster decisions.
Even with a slight improvement with secondary scoring, the Bruins still have a sore spot that nearly reared its ugly head again on Saturday.
Cassidy saw his squad blow another two-goal lead in the third period against a team well beneath it in the league standings. Boston blew a two-goal third-period lead in its shootout loss in New York. The troubling trend continued against the Kings when former Bruin Nate Thompson and Oscar Fatanberg scored 5:54 apart to tie things up and eventually force overtime.
The Bruins have had issues holding leads against the likes of the Rangers, Kings, Flyers, and Hurricanes over the past month and a half. Yet they somehow make up for it when they play well against the Islanders, Capitals, Maple Leafs, and a handful of other teams ahead of them in the standings.
The Bruins are 3-0-3 in their last six entering Sunday’s tilt with the Colorado Avalanche, a team they haven’t beaten at home since 1998. They’d like nothing more than to buck the recent troubling trends and have a complete 60-minute effort.
“I think it’s going well, but I think we can still play a little better,” Bergeron said. “Obviously [we need to] tighten up a few things — a lot of it is sometimes self-inflicted. If we rectify that it’s going to be a lot easier.”