Patrice Bergeron’s closing hug on the ice on Sunday was reserved for Brad Marchand, his longtime linemate and good friend. It was longer and tighter than the different hugs he shared with every of his teammates, and it introduced Bergeron to tears as somber followers stood and cheered.
If it was Bergeron’s closing second in a Boston Bruins uniform, so ends a powerful 19-year profession that locations him in the pantheon of nice Boston athletes. He didn’t win as many championships as Bill Russell or Tom Brady. He was not a three-time most precious participant like Larry Bird. He was not as clutch as David Ortiz and didn’t change the sport the manner Bobby Orr did.
But someplace on that glittering record stands Bergeron, one among the best two-way facilities in hockey historical past. He is probably a number of spots greater than he in any other case may be due to his unmistakable class and the proven fact that he performed his complete profession, not less than, to this point, for the Bruins.
“He is one among the greatest to ever play the sport,” Marchand stated in March, when the Bruins appeared invincible. “He’s additionally one among the greatest leaders ever. It’s onerous for anybody to tug their ft when your greatest participant and oldest man is on the market setting the instance.”
Marchand and his teammates, together with David Krejci, spoke brazenly all yr about how this season was deliberate and arranged by the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup for Bergeron in what could also be the beloved captain’s closing season. His age matches his iconic quantity, 37, which can finally hold above the ice at TD Garden in Boston. He may also actually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the future, however maybe it will likely be with a tinge of disappointment — as there was with Orr — that there might have been extra success, together with this yr.
Bergeron gained a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 together with Marchand and Krejci, and that’s greater than some nice gamers obtain. But the Bruins additionally misplaced in the finals in 2013 and 2019, and now there’s this, a very sorrowful and painful ending.
Perhaps he was crying Sunday evening due to the speedy and colossal disappointment, and never as a result of he knew it was his closing NHL sport. Bergeron and the Bruins skated off the ice after a stunning, season-ending time beyond regulation loss to the Florida Panthers at dwelling in Game 7 of their first-round playoff collection. Afterwards, Bergeron indicated the determination on his future had not been finalized.
“It hurts proper now,” he stated. “I’m going to should step again and provides it some thought with my household.”
Bergeron and his teammates had hoped, perhaps even anticipated, to see their names carved into the Stanley Cup at the finish of the playoffs. Instead, their names shall be added to a brief record of the most bitter Boston sports activities disappointments in latest reminiscence, together with their very own Game 7 loss at dwelling to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 finals.
But as a result of that they had been so good and had the highest of expectations, this gorgeous end result was barely paying homage to the lack of the undefeated 2007 Patriots to the Giants in the Super Bowl. This one got here lengthy earlier than the closing stage, however it was devastating, however.
In the common season, the Bruins gained 65 video games, greater than every other crew in NHL historical past, a document that now taunts them and their followers. On Sunday, after constructing a three-games-to-one lead of their collection with Florida — and holding a 3-2 lead with one minute left in regulation — the Panthers pulled their goalie for a sixth skater and Brandon Montour scored to ship the sport to time beyond regulation. There, Carter Verhaeghe scored the winner for Florida, and the Bruins turned the newest sufferer of the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy.
Since Chicago gained the Stanley Cup in 2013, no crew that led the league in wins (an accomplishment for which that doubtful trophy is awarded) has gained the Stanley Cup. Only 4 occasions has a crew gained each since the 2000-1 season, and the Bruins turned the eighth straight Presidents’ Trophy winner to lose in the first or second spherical.
Perhaps all of them suffered from dangerous luck, or maybe there’s something extra substantive in these numbers. For some groups, it could possibly be the lack of aggressive video games in the direction of the finish of the season. For others, it might have been overconfidence.
For the Bruins, it could have been the pursuit of historical past that did them in, and the weight of expectations. They led the league from starting to finish and secured a playoff spot earlier than every other crew. The Bruins gained 16 of their final 17 regular-season video games, and misplaced solely 5 after the All-Star break. They pushed to the closing sport, maybe so as to add to their historic document, or in an try to remain sharp.
But come the playoffs, Florida was sharper, meaner and had extra intent. The Bruins, with arguably the greatest and deepest defensive core in the league throughout the common season, seemed tentative and tight. They had issue breaking the puck out of their zone and made quite a few uncharacteristic turnovers that led to objectives.
Bergeron, who performed in 78 of 82 video games in the common season, didn’t play in the first 4 video games of the collection due to a herniated disk that he could have suffered in the closing regular-season sport in Montreal on April 13. In the three playoff video games he did skate, the Bruins misplaced.
“Obviously, it is extraordinarily disappointing,” he stated, “particularly with the crew that we had.”
Bergeron, a second-round draft choose in 2003, joined the Bruins at age 18 and has performed in 1,294 regular-season video games. He has amassed 1,040 factors in the common season, together with 427 objectives, and he in all probability prevented a thousand or extra by opponents (he had a plus-minus ranking of +289).
He additionally had 128 factors in 170 playoff video games, and Zdeno Chara, the former Bruins captain, usually praised Bergeron as his efficient co-captain.
Best identified for his offensive and defensive integrity, Bergeron gained a document 5 Selke Trophies as the league’s greatest defensive ahead, most just lately in 2022, however can be one among the league’s most knowledgeable face-off males. According to NHL.com, he gained 14,837 faceoffs in his profession, greater than every other participant since 2005, and his 58.7 successful proportion is eighth greatest in historical past and highest amongst energetic gamers.
He additionally gained two Olympic gold medals with Canada, in 2010 and 2014, and gained a world championship in 2004, all whereas setting a shimmering instance of professionalism.
After Sunday’s loss, Marchand was requested about Bergeron and the risk that his good friend’s profession was over. Marchand grew emotional, showing to combat again tears.
“There’s clearly too many reminiscences to record,” Marchand stated. “But the friendship we have constructed and the relationship now we have has been particular. So, hopefully, it is not.”