2008-09 report card: Patrice Bergeron

bergeron_patrice_hockeycardNo one really knew what to expect from Patrice Bergeron as he attempted to return this season from the Oct. 2007 Grade 3 concussion that cost him the remainder of the Boston Bruins’ 2007-08 campaign.

Would he return to the form that made him one of the rising stars of the NHL or would he be a shadow of his former self? The answer actually turned out to be a mix of both, as it took a while for the “old” Bergeron to emerge as the center shook off the rust of all the inactivity. But by the time the season finished, Bergeron was back to claim his title as the Bruins’ best two-way forward.

Stats: 64 GP, 8-31-39, 16 PIM, plus-2 regular season; 11 GP, 0-5-5, 11 PIM, plus-3 playoffs.

Contract status: Signed through end of 2010-11 season at $4.75 million cap hit.

Season highlight: Bergeron had proven he could return from his injury and played well for the first six games of the regular season. But he was still looking for his first goal Oct. 23 when Toronto arrived at TD Banknorth Garden. With 4:28 remaining in the first period, Bergeron tipped Shane Hnidy’s shot past Vesa Toskala to get the Bruins on the board first. Boston went on to lose that game 4-2, but they didn’t lose another home game for three months. And the emotion of Bergeron finally scoring a regular-season goal in front of the home crowd was a monumental moment in the Bruins’ great season.

Season low light: Finally starting to hit his stride with four assists and a plus-7 rating in his previous eight games, Bergeron was doing what he does best — forecheck — when he crashed headfirst into the shoulder of Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg Dec. 20. While the resulting concussion turned out to not be related to his previous one, and wasn’t as serious, it still cost Bergeron theĀ  Bruins’ next 15 games and he had to basically start his comeback from scratch — meaning he wouldn’t play his best hockey again until late March.

In summation … it took Bergeron longer than he’d hoped to hit his stride, but in all three zones he became a force by the time the playoffs rolled around and he looked like the star-in-the-making he’d been before the 2007 injury.

Grade: B. When someone comes all the way back from such a serious injury, they get the benefit of the doubt. And playing in all situations for the Bruins, Bergeron was never a detriment to his team’s efforts.

The crystal ball says … Bergeron is going to continue to develop into the three-zone star Boston had projected and he could be an actual bargain for his cap hit over the next two seasons. After 15 months of non-stop activity, he can finally take a little down time and come back next fall refreshed and ready to emerge as a perennial threat.

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