Patrice Bergeron’s final hug on the ice on Sunday was reserved for his longtime linemate and friend Brad Marchand. It was a long, tight hug.
If that was Bergeron’s last moment in a Boston Bruins uniform, it would mark the end of a stellar 19-year career that saw him inducted into the Boston Athletes’ Hall of Fame Greatness. He hasn’t won as many championships as Bill Russell or Tom Brady, and he’s never been a player three times as valuable as Larry Bird. He wasn’t as clutch as David Ortiz and didn’t change the game like Bobby Oh.
But somewhere on that glorious list stands Bergeron, one of the greatest two-way centers in hockey history. He probably stands a few higher than he otherwise would due to his undeniable class and the fact that he’s played his entire career for the Bruins, at least so far.
In March, when the Bruins seemed unbeatable, Marchand said, “He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the game.” “He’s also one of the all-time leaders. When your best and oldest players are setting an example, it’s hard for anyone to limp.
His teammates, including Marchand and David Craich, talk about how this season was planned and organized by the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup for Bergeron in what could be the beloved captain’s final season. His age matches his iconic number, 37, which eventually hangs on the ice at Boston’s TD Garden. He’s also certain to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day, but the fact that he could have had more success, including this year, is perhaps tinged with disappointment, as was the case with Orr. prize.
Bergeron won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Bruins along with Marchand and Craig. But the Bruins have also lost in 2013 and his 2019 Finals, and now it’s a particularly sad and painful ending.
Perhaps he cried Sunday night not because he knew it was his last NHL game, but because of the immediate disappointment. Bergeron and the Bruins skated on the ice after a shock season-ending overtime loss at home to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the first round of the playoff series. Bergeron later said a decision regarding his future has not yet been finalized.
“It hurts now,” he said. “I have to take a step back and think with my family.”
Bergeron and his teammates hoped, perhaps even expected, to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup at the end of the playoffs. It adds to a short list of the most disastrous Boston sports disappointments in recent memory, including a Game 7 loss at home.
But they were so good, they expected the best, so this surprising result was a bit of a reminder of the 2007 undefeated Patriots loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl. This came long before the final stages, but it was still devastating.
In the regular season, the Bruins won 65 games, more than any other team in NHL history. On Sunday, he built a 3-1 lead in the series against Florida, and after he held a 3-2 lead with one minute left in regulation, the Panthers pulled goalkeepers for his sixth skater, Brandon Montour scored the goal and the game went into extra time. There is Carter Verhaeghe picked the winner For Florida, the Bruins have become the latest victims of the presidential trophy curse.
Since Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2013, no team that has led the league in championships (a result of that questionable trophy award) has won the Stanley Cup. His was the only time since the 2000-1 season that a team has won both, making it his eighth straight win of the trophy as the Bruins lost in the first or second round to the Presidents.
Perhaps they all had bad luck. Or maybe there’s something more substantial in these numbers. For some teams, it may have been a lack of competitive games heading into the end of the season.
For the Bruins, it may have been the pursuit of history and the weight of expectations that made them successful. They led the league from start to finish and qualified for the playoffs faster than any other team. The Bruins won 16 of his final 17 games of the regular season, but instead of dominating, they were victorious. They pushed into the final game, perhaps to break the record or stay sharp.
But when it came to the playoffs, Florida was sharper, meaner, and more willful. The Bruins, arguably the best and deepest defense in the league with his core during the regular season, looked tentative and tight. They struggled to get the puck out of the zone and made many uncharacteristic turnovers that led to goals.
Bergeron, who appeared in 78 of the 82 regular-season games, did not appear in the first four games of the series due to a possible herniated disc in the final regular-season game in Montreal on April 13. In the three playoff games he skated, the Bruins lost.
“Of course I am very sorry,” he said.
A second-round pick in the 2003 draft, Bergeron joined the Bruins at age 18 and appeared in 1,294 regular season games. He has scored 1,040 points in his regular season, including his 427 goals, and he has probably prevented over 1,000 opponents (his plus/minus rating was +289).
He also scored 128 points in 170 playoff games, and former Bruins captain Zdenochara often praised Bergeron as his effective co-captain.
Best known for his offensive and defensive integrity, Bergeron won a record five Selke Trophies as the league’s best defensive forward, most recently in 2022, but he won the league’s most. He is also one of the most skilled faceoff players. According to NHL.com, He won 14,837 face-offs in his careermore than any other player since 2005, and his 58.7 winning percentage is the eighth highest of all time and the highest among active players.
He also won two Olympic gold medals for Canada in 2010 and 2014 and won the World Championships in 2004.
After Sunday’s loss, Marchand was asked about the possibility that the careers of Bergeron and his friends were over. Marchand seemed emotional and holding back tears.
“Obviously there are too many memories to write,” Marchand said. “But the friendships and relationships we’ve built are special. So hopefully, it’s not.”