Patrice Bergeron’s remaining hug on the ice on Sunday was reserved for Brad Marchand, his longtime linemate and good friend. It was longer and tighter than the different hugs he shared with every of his teammates, and it introduced Bergeron to tears as somber followers stood and cheered.
If it was Bergeron’s remaining second in a Boston Bruins uniform, so ends a powerful 19-year profession that locations him in the pantheon of nice Boston athletes. He didn’t win as many championships as Bill Russell or Tom Brady. He was not a three-time most beneficial participant like Larry Bird. He was not as clutch as David Ortiz and didn’t change the recreation the means Bobby Orr did.
But someplace on that glittering checklist stands Bergeron, certainly one of the biggest two-way facilities in hockey historical past. He is probably a number of spots greater than he in any other case could be due to his unmistakable class and the proven fact that he performed his complete profession, at the least, to date, for the Bruins.
“He is certainly one of the greatest to ever play the recreation,” Marchand mentioned in March, when the Bruins appeared invincible. “He’s additionally certainly one of the greatest leaders ever. It’s laborious for anybody to pull their ft when your greatest participant and oldest man is on the market setting the instance.”
Marchand and his teammates, together with David Krejci, spoke brazenly all yr about how this season was deliberate and arranged by the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup for Bergeron in what could also be the beloved captain’s remaining season. His age matches his iconic quantity, 37, which is able to ultimately cling above the ice at TD Garden in Boston. He may even actually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the future, however maybe will probably be with a tinge of disappointment — as there was with Orr — that there might have been extra success, together with this yr.
Bergeron received a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 together with Marchand and Krejci, and that’s greater than some nice gamers obtain. But the Bruins additionally misplaced in the finals in 2013 and 2019, and now there’s this, a very sorrowful and painful ending.
Perhaps he was crying Sunday evening due to the fast and colossal disappointment, and never as a result of he knew it was his remaining NHL recreation. Bergeron and the Bruins skated off the ice after a stunning, season-ending extra time loss to the Florida Panthers at house in Game 7 of their first-round playoff collection. Afterwards, Bergeron indicated the choice on his future had not been finalized.
“It hurts proper now,” he mentioned. “I’m going to need to step again and provides it some thought with my household.”
Bergeron and his teammates had hoped, possibly even anticipated, to see their names carved into the Stanley Cup at the finish of the playoffs. Instead, their names shall be added to a brief checklist of the most bitter Boston sports activities disappointments in current reminiscence, together with their very own Game 7 loss at house to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 finals.
But as a result of that they had been so good and had the highest of expectations, this beautiful end result was barely paying homage to the lack of the undefeated 2007 Patriots to the Giants in the Super Bowl. This one got here lengthy earlier than the remaining stage, but it surely was devastating, however.
In the common season, the Bruins received 65 video games, greater than another group in NHL historical past, a document that now taunts them and their followers. On Sunday, after constructing a three-games-to-one lead of their collection with Florida — and holding a 3-2 lead with one minute left in regulation — the Panthers pulled their goalie for a sixth skater and Brandon Montour scored to ship the recreation to extra time. There, Carter Verhaeghe scored the winner for Florida, and the Bruins turned the newest sufferer of the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy.
Since Chicago received the Stanley Cup in 2013, no group that led the league in wins (an accomplishment for which that doubtful trophy is awarded) has received the Stanley Cup. Only 4 instances has a group received each since the 2000-1 season, and the Bruins turned the eighth straight Presidents’ Trophy winner to lose in the first or second spherical.
Perhaps all of them suffered from dangerous luck, or maybe there’s something extra substantive in these numbers. For some groups, it might be the lack of aggressive video games in the direction of the finish of the season. For others, it might have been overconfidence.
For the Bruins, it might have been the pursuit of historical past that did them in, and the weight of expectations. They led the league from starting to finish and secured a playoff spot earlier than another group. The Bruins received 16 of their final 17 regular-season video games, and misplaced solely 5 after the All-Star break. They pushed to the remaining recreation, maybe so as to add to their historic document, or in an try to remain sharp.
But come the playoffs, Florida was sharper, meaner and had extra intent. The Bruins, with arguably the greatest and deepest defensive core in the league throughout the common season, appeared tentative and tight. They had issue breaking the puck out of their zone and made quite a few uncharacteristic turnovers that led to objectives.
Bergeron, who performed in 78 of 82 video games in the common season, didn’t play in the first 4 video games of the collection due to a herniated disk that he might have suffered in the remaining regular-season recreation in Montreal on April 13. In the three playoff video games he did skate, the Bruins misplaced.
“Obviously, it is extraordinarily disappointing,” he mentioned, “particularly with the group that we had.”
Bergeron, a second-round draft decide in 2003, joined the Bruins at age 18 and has performed in 1,294 regular-season video games. He has amassed 1,040 factors in the common season, together with 427 objectives, and he in all probability prevented a thousand or extra by opponents (he had a plus-minus ranking of +289).
He additionally had 128 factors in 170 playoff video games, and Zdeno Chara, the former Bruins captain, usually praised Bergeron as his efficient co-captain.
Best recognized for his offensive and defensive integrity, Bergeron received a document 5 Selke Trophies as the league’s greatest defensive ahead, most lately in 2022, however can also be certainly one of the league’s most skilled face-off males. According to NHL.com, he received 14,837 faceoffs in his profession, greater than another participant since 2005, and his 58.7 successful share is eighth greatest in historical past and highest amongst energetic gamers.
He additionally received two Olympic gold medals with Canada, in 2010 and 2014, and received a world championship in 2004, all whereas setting a shimmering instance of professionalism.
After Sunday’s loss, Marchand was requested about Bergeron and the risk that his good friend’s profession was over. Marchand grew emotional, showing to combat again tears.
“There’s clearly too many recollections to checklist,” Marchand mentioned. “But the friendship we have constructed and the relationship we have now has been particular. So, hopefully, it isn’t.”