The time is now for Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins to follow Sidney Crosby’s and the Pittsburgh Penguins lead and seriously consider surgery if it will prevent him from missing more games, especially later in the season when the Bruins will need him even more.
Bergeron will not play tonight in Montreal against the Canadiens and tomorrow night in Ottawa against the Senators thanks to the same nagging groin area injury that forced him to miss two of the team’s last four games since he reaggravated the injury in a 4-2 win at Toronto on November 15. Thus far the approach has been load management with the medical staff consulting with the team’s best 200-foot player and heart and soul, strategically planning practices and now games off. There is no confirmation from team or player that like Crosby had been until he recently had surgery for a sports hernia, Bergeron is battling the same injury, but on Monday while head coach Bruce Cassidy said to his knowledge the Bruins aren’t leaning that way, he was not ruling that possibility out.
“I don’t know what Crosby has compared to ‘Bergy’ to be honest with ya, and if it would require similar treatment to make it all go away or not,” Cassidy admitted to the media. “I haven’t been in those discussions so to answer your question no. Could that come up down the road? I guess it’s possible but I haven’t poked my nose in that particular avenue of treatment. For me, it’s been we’re gonna keep him off the ice certain days, other days he’s full go, but this time, it’s you can’t play him like this because he’ll just aggravate it. So that’s what they tell me and it’s off we go.”
Cassidy also told the media that this current approach wasn’t put into motion until the injury – which has not only nagged Bergeron this season but over the course of the last few seasons – acted up again in Toronto. The Bruins were set to play the tail end of a back-to-back against the Washington Capitals the next night in Boston and Bergeron was a late scratch. He then missed the following game at New Jersey last Tuesday but played Thursday at home against the Buffalo Sabres. According to Cassidy, this current back-to-back isn’t the only reason Bergeron isn’t playing.
“Now it’s at the point, back-to-back or not, they just feel he’s better off the ice,” he said. “That will be the best way to respond.”
Bergeron was unavailable for comment Monday but he the 34-year-old center who came back like a bat out of hell from the last two games he missed and had four assists in the Bruins 5-4 comeback win in overtime Saturday, recently said he’s more willing to listen t the medical staff and miss some games this season.
“I’ve opened my eyes more to that,” Bergeron told the media last week.
Well, he and the team need to open their eyes even wider and look into what would be a not so pleasant future later this season, should he have to go under the knife then instead of just getting ahead of this frustrating injury. Bergeron has now logged 1,049 regular season games and 136 in the postseason since bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old rookie in the 2003-04 season. While his threshold for pain remains high, the wear and tear are clearly affecting Bergeron as he hasn’t reached the 80-game plateau since 2015-16 or played 70 games or more since the following season. Bergeron appeared in 64 games in 2017-18 and then 65 last season.
Bergeron’s teammates obviously know they’re a better team with him in the lineup but they also know and have proven that, at least in the regular season, they can win without him too. The Bruins depth, specifically up the middle, helped them tremendously during their midseason 19-game point streak despite Bergeron only playing 12 games during that span.
“He’s obviously a huge hole for our team to fill but we just have to rely on the next guy in the lineup and definitely be really good,” linemate Brad Marchand, who leads the team in points with 39, said Monday. “When he’s out I have to try to be more sound defensively where I catch myself cheating a little bit when he’s out there because he’s always in a position to cover up for everybody. So, it’s more about just to stop and come back and have good sticks in lanes, stuff like that your able to get away with when he’s out there. It’s also just about trying to play the right way. That’s what he does and kind of shows everybody that as a good leader and plays the way you need to play to win every night. If we all do that, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Marchand is absolutely right. The Bruins have arguably the best depth up the middle with Bergeron, David Krejci and Charlie Coyle. Even fourth line pivot Sean Kuraly can provide some clutch goals as he’s proven in big games and in the playoffs the last two seasons. As long as the Bruins apply what Bergeron has taught them, they can survive an extended absence for him over the next couple months. Krejci even showed in the last two games Bergeron missed, that he can slot in just fine between Marchand and the league’s leading goal scorer David Pastrnak, as he had three assists in those two games.
So, as his longtime friend and Hockey Canada teammate, Crosby did recently, Bergeron and the Bruins need to realize he’s much more valuable to the team if he’s healthy in March and April and hopefully for another deep playoff run than he is now.