BOSTON -- These are dire times for the Boston Bruins.
While management continues to rack its collective brain to find ways to improve the team, the players on the current roster find themselves trying to stay positive, despite inconsistencies and subpar performances. Veteran leadership is frustrated by the lack of success this season and everyone is susceptible to criticism, including Patrice Bergeron.
There’s a character in the movie “Goodfellas” known as Jimmy “Two Times” because he says everything twice. You know the line: “I’m going to get the papers, get the papers.” In the hockey world, Bergeron should be known as “Two-Point Bergy” because all he talks about is the importance of earning two points for the team.
Your team has dealt with injuries all season?
Your top producers aren’t producing?
Your team is struggling to stay in playoff contention?
Bergeron is never concerned with personal statistics. When the team is struggling the way the Bruins are this season, he doesn’t care how they win as long as they win.
“It is about the two points and I know he’s working hard,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron.
“He had a great year last year, scoring 30 goals, and I don’t know what he’ll end up with this year, but it’s still the same Bergy that competes every game,” Julien said.
At the end of the 2013-14 season, Bergeron finished with 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points in 80 games. He also posted a plus-38 rating. When the NHL broke for its annual Christmas break on Dec. 23, 2013, Bergeron had nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points, including a plus-16 rating.
This season, with one game remaining before the three-day break, Bergeron has six goals and 17 assists for 23 points, but has just a plus-3 rating.
“As a coach, it’s hard to criticize players that come to play every game,” Julien said. “You get disappointed in players that are so good one night and not so good the next, or don’t show up and are weak players. With him, it’s always been his trait that he comes to play hard. There’s no doubt and I’m sure he’d like his numbers to be a little bit better, but right now he’s still one of your top scorers anyway.”
With the exception of the plus/minus, Bergeron’s numbers are on pace with a season ago. In the last 14 games, Boston’s assistant captain has only one goal, and while the entire team is trying to generate more scoring, Bergeron wants to do his part.
“Anytime you hear that about the team [struggling], as an individual you always want to bring more and try to contribute more and help in any way you can,” Bergeron said. “I wish I could score every game, but you know with the parity in the league now, you know it’s unrealistic. At the same time, I’m approaching the game that way and trying to get better every game.”
Bergeron never has been the type of player to feel pressure to perform. When he arrives at the rink for either practice or a game, his goal is to be the hardest-working player on the ice. But he’s not immune from criticism due to the team’s lackluster performance this season and understands he’s as much to blame as anyone for the inconsistency.
“I have high expectations of myself and I don’t think any of the outside pressures should affect me, and I don’t think it’s a good thing to do that,” he said. “With my past experience, it’s helping me now to realize it turns around if you work hard and keep doing the same thing and keep plugging at it. I’m trying to do that and definitely putting emphasis in practice on bearing on my chances and putting the puck in the net.”
Until the Bruins rallied late and eventually beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime Sunday at TD Garden, Boston was on the verge of losing to one of the worst teams in the NHL. There have been too many of those games this season, and if that trend continues the Bruins will find themselves on the outside looking in for the first time in eight years once puck drops for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Right now we definitely need to establish some consistency in our game,” Bergeron said. “It starts with the details and those things that helped us in the past and realizing we’ve done it before and going out there and executing the game plan. There’s too much of the ups and downs right now. We get on our heels too quickly. We have to stay on our toes and stay hungry.”
The Bruins seem convinced they can turn it around. At this point, all they need to do is climb their way back into playoff position and stay there, because once the playoffs begin it really doesn’t matter where you’re ranked. Boston learned that first-hand last season after winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best regular-season team, before losing in the second round to the Montreal Canadiens.
Most of the players on this team aren’t used to teetering in and out of a playoff spot at this point of the season. It’s an uncomfortable feeling for those players.
“You learn in any situation and it’s another learning process for me,” Bergeron said. “I’m an older leader but the last few years we’ve always been successful and we haven’t had those down years, so this year is definitely a challenge.
“That being said, it’s a great [challenge] and it’s adversity and we’ve been through it in the past, so you have to rely on past experiences, and as leaders, you try to step up and find ways to get everyone going.”
After the Bruins’ practice Monday morning at TD Garden, it was evident in the locker room that players are looking forward to the upcoming break. The much-needed rest and relaxation arrives at the perfect time. Boston lost to the Predators 3-2 in a shootout last week in Nashville, so the Bruins want to rebound and finish strong before the break.
Bergeron believes this team has more to give and he wants it to start with him.
“We need some character to bounce back,” he said.