TAMPA – There was Victor Hedman, again, the Tampa Bay defenseman who threw one of the two hits that eventually sidelined Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby indefinitely earlier this season with a concussion.
The second-year bulky blueliner headed toward the half-wall, where Patrice Bergeron was playing the puck with his back to the Lightning defender. The ensuing hit wasn’t a hit from behind, but it was close and it made a large crack that made anyone with any feelings for Bergeron gulp.
Boston’s veteran center, playing his first game since his latest concussion May 6, skated away from the hit without any sign that he’d missed any time lately with an injury. More important, he was confident that he could withstand the check and still be one of the Bruins’ best forwards.
“I wasn’t worried,” said Bergeron after he won 64 percent of his faceoffs to help the Bruins take Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final from the Lightning, 2-0.
“Like I say, I was confident. I was ready. I was back 100 percent. And when you’re like that in your mind, you know you’re fine. I wasn’t really worried about that first hit. I knew I was going to be all right.”
Head coach Claude Julien, whose Bruins now lead the series 2-1, said after the game that if there had been any concerns about Bergeron taking contact, he wouldn’t have played. The Bruins have gone down a bumpy road with star center Marc Savard, who came back too early last spring, and is out indefinitely after a second concussion in as many seasons.
Bergeron could’ve been excused if he had just said ‘why me’ and gone about his life without hockey for the rest of this year. His most-recent concussion, which was the result of a Claude Giroux hit, was his third in four seasons.
“You know what? From my experience, I tried to take it a day at a time. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself,” said Bergeron about working his way back this season rather than shutting himself down. “When you do that, it can make it worse. So obviously I was confident. I knew it was mild, and I felt good.
“But we didn’t want to take any chances, any risk. And I felt like today was — I felt good.
I was confident that I was ready, and the doctors and trainers were in the same boat as me. So it was time for me to be out there.”
The Bruins needed Bergeron at both ends of the rink. They needed him to win draws, play tight defense and lift his linemates Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi, who’d struggled in this series without their alternate captain.
Everything was right in the Bruins’ universe for one night. And Hedman wasn’t able to sidetrack yet another standout center.