- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Brian Rolston watched Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals from home. He says he wasn't the least bit surprised to see his then-former -- and now current -- teammate Patrice Bergeron score two goals and lead the Bruins to a 4-0 win that clinched their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
Rolston played with Bergeron in Bergeron's rookie season when the Bruins blew a 3-1 series lead over the hated Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs and were ousted in Game 7 on home ice. But Rolston thought then that if Bergeron's future teammates -- unlike some of his teammates then -- learned to follow Bergeron's lead, they would eventually win a Game 7 and a Stanley Cup.
"I wasn't surprised at all and it was great watching him perform that way because I knew he would," Rolston said of Bergeron's Game 7 performance in Vancouver on June 15. "That was just him performing the way he does on a regular basis, but in the biggest spotlight there is. That stuff doesn't phase Bergy because he is all about doing his job and being himself.
"Even early in this series, everyone has been complaining about the top two lines but even if they haven't been putting up the numbers, they've been doing their jobs and Bergy the most out of any of them. He's the heartbeat of our team and he is made for games like this."
On Monday, Bergeron was nominated for the Selke Trophy given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. But as far as Rolston, other teammates and even former teammates are concerned, Bergeron should be given a clutch player award as well. To a man, they say Bergeron is a guy you want on your side when playing in a do-or-die Game 7.
"His demeanor hasn't changed since he was 18-years-old," Rolston said. "He's just always had that professional, even-keeled approach, and that's what was so special about him back then and is so special about him now. He was one of our better players that year in the playoffs because of his poise and doing things the right way.
"Bergy is a guy that never cheats on the offensive side, but if he did he'd score more goals. But that doesn't matter to him. What matters to him is winning and the team. That's what makes him such a great player and a guy you want on your side in a Game 7."
Bergeron is approaching his next Game 7, which will take place Wednesday against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden, the same way he has any other do-or-die game. He is as excited, poised and calm as that 18-year-old who took to the ice in late April 2004 against Montreal.
"I think these two things are there: nerves are there, excitement is there. But obviously confidence and wanting to go out there and having a winning attitude is very important," Bergeron said. "Obviously we respect Washington and we know they're a great team and have played well against us all series, so it's going to be a tough game. We're looking forward to it and I guess we're just excited and making sure we're ready for Wednesday."
That approach by Bergeron helped Mark Recchi win a Stanley Cup in his last game in the NHL. Recchi recalled a calm sense of confidence in Bergeron, one of his linemates, and that before the game he truly believed he would ride off into the sunset a winner.
"I knew exactly how he'd play because he does it every night and I didn't expect anything different," Recchi said Monday. "The thing about a guy like Bergy is some people try and get to a Game 7 and then they over-try or they let the pressure grab them and bite them. Then they don't play as well because of that.
"Bergy just knows that if he plays the game the way he plays it -- and the right way -- that he's going to be effective. He's smart enough and he's good enough that he believes in himself that he won't try and go out and be more than what he is. He will play his game and do the right things.
"Guys that are successful in Game 7's, that's what they do and that's why the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, because they followed the lead of a guy like Bergy and went out and did that. Bergy led the way and I'm sure he'll lead them again. They just need to follow."
So when the Bruins take the ice Wednesday they will do so with not only a Selke Trophy candidate and arguably the best two-way forward in the NHL, but a player who is made for moments like a Game 7.
Patrice Bergeron seems to be at his best when the Bruins need him most.