No Bruins player had a larger fall from grace after Boston blew its 3-0 series lead to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinal series than Patrice Bergeron. Despite a groin injury, the center contributed to a gold-medal win for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver back in February. Just three months later, Bergeron was on the wrong end of history at TD Garden.
While he at times battled the same lack-of-finish affliction most of his teammates endured all season, Bergeron did everything he could to keep the Bruins alive in the playoff chase, make the playoffs and then stage a first-round upset. He was great in all three zones almost all year long and not only proved he was back in form after his years of injuries, but ready to be even better than he was before.
Stats: 73 GP, 19-33-52, 28 PIM, plus-6
Season highlight: Two plays more than anything stand out this season, and Bergeron executed both down the stretch with a playoff spot on the line. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime March 30 at New Jersey — an extra point the Bruins desperately needed.
And then there’s a play simply known as “The Save.” With the Bruins protecting a one-goal lead in the third period April 10 against Carolina in a must-win game, Bergeron raced the length of the rink to prevent Blake Wheeler’s errant pass from entering the Boston net after a delayed penalty call.
Season low-light: While finished second on the team in postseason scoring with 11 points (4 goals), Bergeron wasn’t able to stop the Bruins’ slide into eternity. He failed to record a point in the last three games and was goal-less in the last four. He hit a post at a crucial point in Game 6.
Final grade: A-minus. When you weigh Bergeron’s offensive output against the defensive responsibilities he had against top lines all season, and factor in the revolving door of struggling left wingers he and Mark Recchi were forced to carry, you couldn’t really have asked more from the alternate captain. Plus he finished fifth in the NHL with a 58-percent success rate on faceoffs and anchored the league’s third-best penalty kill.
The crystal ball says … Bergeron couldn’t be playing his best hockey at a better time, as he’s entering the last year of his contract. The potential 2011 unrestricted free agent will probably re-sign with Boston before the next season even starts, and solidify himself as one of the franchise’s cornerstones.