Think back. When was the last time you even thought about Patrice Bergeron’s Grade 3 concussion.
Was it when the Boston Bruins veteran center suffered a second concussion in a collision with Carolina’s Dennis Seidenberg back in late December? Was it when he returned to action after a 14-game absence in late January? I can guarantee you one thing, the words concussion and Bergeron haven’t been combined in your mind in the last six weeks or so. Bergeron’s revitalized game and full health have become things we take for granted — and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“At the beginning of the year, that’s the way it is. It’s so fresh in your memory, with you guys (in the media) or with (my teammates). So you think about it a little bit,” Bergeron explained to TheBruinsBlog.net this week when asked about the end of the concussion-dominated inquisitions that he faced for months ever since he started working out again last spring. “But now, it’s been a while, you kind of forget about things. That’s how life is, I guess. But it’s nice to not have to talk about it too much, and from my standpoint to look forward and feel like myself again.”
You know that Bergeron is not lying about feeling like himself again if you’ve even watched him play just one or two games, maybe even only one or two shifts, since 2009 turned two months old. It might seem odd to laud the play of someone who has just two goals since his return from injury (27 games). After all, Bergeron averages 17:50 of ice time and, until last weekend, was a fixture on the first power-play unit. But the way this Bruins team have been built, Bergeron isn’t really relied on fill the net.
Maybe somewhere down the road, he’ll regain the touch that made him a 30-goal scorer two years ago. But that doesn’t matter right now. As far as a shutdown, defensive center; as far as a proficient faceoff man, who can come up with the clutch win at the dots when the puck has to be in Boston’s possession; as far as a player that can change the momentum of the game with a solid hit on the forecheck, a turnover-causing stick check or a subtle play in the corner that leads to a quick breakout or a scoring opportunity — this is Bergeron at his best.
And it’s also Bergeron at his peak of focus. No more worrying about the next hit being his last. No more worrying if he’ll be dizzy or have headaches or neck stiffness. Sure the threat of another concussion will always be very real. But it’s not foremost in his mind, nor does it define who he is as a player.
In fact, other than the second concussion, this has been somewhat of a dream season for Bergeron. Back healthy, skating a regular shift on one of the top teams in the NHL, and in possession of a Northeast Division title for the first time since his rookie season. While relishing the highlights of this season thus far, Bergeron is still as dissatisfied with just winning the division as the rest of his teammates.
“It’s great. Like I said at the beginning of the year, just to be back on the ice, it’s great to be playing. I’m very thankful,” he said. “Last year was a long year. And now this year I’m think about this year. And it’s been a lot of fun and I’m still looking forward to the next nine games. Taking it a game at a time like I’ve been saying all year.”
Never has a cliché like “one game at a time” sounded so meaningful. That’s because Bergeron’s looking forward to games, not recovery days. He’s able to anticipate the improvement ofhis shot, his passes and his checks, while not worrying about any internal improvement.
Yeah, life is great for Patrice Bergeron right now.