Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. Here he reflects on the upcoming anniversary of the Boston Marathon tragedy, goes over how the team will prep for the playoffs, talks about scoring 30 goals and explains how he ended up accidentally punching Brad Marchand. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta, twitter @ESPNLKCornetta)
Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, and then April 21 is this year’s marathon. When I think back a year ago, I remember that day we had a game. I was taking a pregame nap. When I woke up, I looked at my phone and I had a bunch of text messages and missed calls from my family and some friends. That’s when I turned on the TV and realized what happened.
I was in shock first of all. My initial thought was to make sure no one that I knew was there. After that, it was such a sad moment. Your thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. It was all kind of a blur. You just couldn’t believe what really happened.
We were the first team to play a game in Boston afterward. I’ll never forget the crowd taking over to sing the national anthem. It was a special moment to be part of that. You could tell that the whole city gathered together and formed a bond to help one another. I think our game and sports in general helped with the process of healing a little bit by giving people a couple of hours to get their minds off of things. Just to have a small break because it was on everybody’s mind for such a long time, that’s what we tried to do. I’m not saying we erased anything, we really were just trying to help in our own way.
Your first thought after we were back playing is wanting to see some of the victims to try and meet them to say hi. Some of them that I met, their spirit was really impressive. Something that will always stick with me is how they kept their smiles. They were ready to feel better and to go on. It put things in perspective. For me, it was just trying to say hi and to try and be there for them to show my support.
A transition over to talking hockey now is not easy, but I’ll switch topics to what has been happening on the ice. Things have been going really well for us. We’ve told ourselves that we have to keep building toward the playoffs and keep our consistency going. That is something that we’ve been able to do and something that you need in the playoffs. It’s about playing to our system and Claude [Julien] does a really good job of keeping us accountable when he doesn’t think things are going the way they should be. We have high standards for ourselves and always want to be better.
As a team, we had a hot streak where we won 12 straight games; that was a lot of fun. It was a great feeling and we didn’t want that streak to end, even though we knew it might happen at some point. I thought the guys did a great job of just staying with it and taking it a game at a time. We didn’t think too far ahead. The Canadiens were the ones who ended it. That game felt like a playoff game. If we face them at some point in the playoffs, it will be great hockey. It’s always great hockey when we play them.
I’ve heard some people say we might have peaked too soon, especially during our 12-game winning streak. I don’t agree. I think we’ve been playing at a high level for a while now. We’re playing good hockey, but we can be better. We’ve seen a lot of areas to our game that we’ve needed to improve. One area we could get better in is our defensive zone coverage. Sometimes we need to be a little more involved and talking a little more. I think we have goals yet to accomplish. Hopefully we keep pushing ourselves so we can achieve them.
I’ve also had people ask me about how much did I want to get one more goal so that I had 30. While 30 is a nice achievement, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s one of those things that I just felt that if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, I wasn’t going to worry about it. For me, it’s just about keep building toward the playoffs. Scoring 30 goals, goal scoring or my stats has never been something very important to me. Helping the team get to the playoffs and playing well there is what’s important.
I will say though when you have a hot streak and are scoring a lot of goals in bunches like has been the case for me recently, it’s not like the puck seems bigger or the game feels like it’s slowing down or anything like that. I guess you’d say I’m getting the bounces going my way. I think I’m playing the same way and doing the same things on the ice. It’s just a matter of getting the breaks and getting the puck for it to go in.
Winning the Presidents’ Trophy and having home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs was something we were thinking about. We wanted to keep building on our consistency and making sure we keep playing well as we head into the playoffs. It was a goal we wanted to achieve. Having home-ice advantage for the whole playoffs goes a long way. Our fans have been great support all year long. We’re looking forward to the same thing again this year in the playoffs. Hopefully we can do some great things not just for us, but for them. While home ice is nice, you still have to take it a game at a time in the playoffs.
We don’t know yet who our playoff opponent for the first round will be. [Editor's note: This was written before the Bruins learned they were playing the Red Wings in the first round.] Honestly the last few years it’s been the same thing, it always seems like we have to wait until the last game. We will still have a few days to prepare and the coaches do a great job of getting us ready. I think we’ll be fine. The way we prep is a combo of watching video and going through some drills. Besides watching video on the opponent we’re going to face, we want to touch up on some of our systems so that we’re able to do the things we want to do against them to counter some of their tendencies. Then it’s about going through the motions of the game plan in some of our drills, which really helps us to have a good feeling of where you need to be on the ice.
I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have won at various levels. [Editor’s note: Bergeron has won a Junior World Championship, a World Championship, two Olympic gold medals and a Stanley Cup.] Losing last year was tough and wasn’t fun at all. Especially when you go all the way to the finals, you never want to lose or let that opportunity slip away. It’s such a rare opportunity to get there, you have to make sure you seize it. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to go at it again this year and take care of business when we’re there.
Getting to the finals last year and losing has been motivating to us. It’s extra motivation because we’ve been there before and won, and have also been there and didn’t. We know how each one feels. It is obviously a goal of ours to repeat what we did in 2011. It was the best feeling and a dream come true, not just for us but for the city of Boston. We want to repeat that and do it again.
The biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s is our depth. If you look at all our lines, we can score and also defend. Same thing defensively, we have some good puck-moving defensemen. In goal, Tuukka [Rask] has been even better than last year, and last year he was amazing.
Another difference from last year is the addition of Jarome Iginla and what he has brought to our team. His goal-scoring touch always has been there and he’s brought that to us. His work ethic and leadership on and off the ice has been a huge addition. But also his experience because he’s brought so much to the table with everything he’s done. It’s great to have a teammate like him.
I thought I’d end this on a somewhat comical note. If you watched the last episode of "Behind the B" where you get to peak into what our season is like behind the scenes, you might have seen me accidentally punch my linemate, Brad Marchand, in the face in our game against Colorado. The next day the guys were talking about it. Really it was accidental, but guys were teasing saying that I meant to do it. No, I really was trying to get the other guy away from Marchy. I misread my reach I guess and came too close and hit him. I was just trying to help, but I guess I made it worse.
Marchy didn’t even realize it at the time. He didn’t know it was my glove hitting him. He thought it was the other guy’s. So he didn’t say anything until he saw the video. Luckily it’s never happened to me and I’m glad because I felt pretty badly that I was the one that did it to Marchy.
But we’ll put that behind us as we get ready for the playoffs to start up. Playoff hockey, you can’t say enough about it. It’s the best time of the year.