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Playoff Focus Comes Into Play For Boston Bruins Best

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Boston Bruins

You had to know that Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were going to give a little Boston Bruins reminder of exactly what they can do prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

After a mostly quiet couple of weeks with David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm missing time due to injuries and their playoff fate having been ostensibly clinched months ago in a predictable Eastern Conference, Patrice Bergeron and Marchand finally exploded over the weekend in the 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens.

Amidst an emotional Bell Centre backdrop where Quebecois legend Guy Lafleur was being honored at the time of his sad passing, Bergeron scored a pair of goals to take sole possession of fourth place on the Boston Bruins all-time goals scored list (397) ahead of Ray Bourque. Bergeron sits just five behind Rick Middleton for third place on the all-time Boston Bruins list and is just three goals away from 400 career goals with the Boston Bruins that would have him join Middleton, Phil Esposito and Johnny Bucyk in an incredibly exclusive Black and Gold club.

But rather than being about history, it was about the 36-year-old Bergeron declining a night off in Montreal and instead getting his game back on track while absolutely wanting to be a part of the Lafleur memorial.

“[Bergeron] is a legend in Boston, obviously, like a [Jean] Beliveau was here or a [Jacques] Lemaire, Lafleur’s center and a really professional player and very good two-way player,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Nice to do it here in his home province. Good for Bergie.

“It’s a long year when you get to be that age and you’ve played that many games. It’s game 79 for him and it was back-to-back. We even talked to him about ‘would you like the night off?’ We’ve got five games in seven days to close out the season. It’s kind of crazy finish. But he wanted to play in front of his parents, and good for him. I’m glad he decided to.”

It was also about Bergeron continuing to put his best foot forward (23 goals and 59 points in 74 games) in his home province of Quebec against a Canadiens team he did not root for as a kid and doing it in front of his adoring parents in the stands.

Bergeron finished with two goals, three points and a plus-3 in an economical 15:36 of ice time and had three shots on net, three hits and won 11-of-15 in a typically excellent all-around game. Marchand still sits with only one goal in the month of April at this point and barely missed on an empty netter a couple of games ago.

But his all-around game and commitment to making winning plays was 100 percent there in Montreal as well, just as it was on Saturday against the Rangers. People talked about the missed empty net, but they didn’t talk about Marchand hustling to beat out an icing call that kept the puck in the Rangers end for 30 seconds. Those are the kinds of unheralded plays that win games in the playoffs.

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Marchand finished with two assists, had a plus-2 rating in 16:51 and reflexively tackled Jeff Petry when the Montreal defenseman lowered the boom with a beautiful hip check on Bergeron in the neutral zone during the first period.

“It’s a matter of one going in [for Marchand]. A lot of great looks, especially the last few games. He’s right there. Lots of unlikely bounces. I think we saw that [against the Rangers]. He’s been through it in the past,” said Bergeron, prior to Sunday’s game talking about Marchand when he might have been talking about himself as well. “You just need to rely on that past experience. It’s one good bounce and then it’s back on track, and you gain a lot of confidence from it.”

Trent Frederic also paid Petry a visit at the end of the first period to let him know that No. 37 wasn’t going to be targeted, especially this close to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But all Bergeron did was keep playing after scoring the first goal of the game in the first period.
He wound up with the empty netter in the closing seconds for his 22nd goal of the season and scored as many goals on Sunday night as he had in the previous 11 games during the month of April.

It was a sharp reminder to Boston’s upcoming playoff opponents that Boston’s best players are finding the range again as the Bruins regain full health, and as the postseason quickly approaches for players like Bergeron and Marchand that live for this time of year.

“It’s keep working on our game and feel good headed into the playoffs. I think that’s the biggest thing. You don’t want to cruise through the last few games and expect to flip a switch when you walk into the playoffs,” said Bergeron, who should be looking at some kind of rest this week with just three more games remaining on the regular season schedule and a first-round date vs. Carolina looking like the most likely possibility. “You need to stay sharp and stay focused and keep carrying on with the things that you’re doing well.”

If looking sharp and focused for next weeks’ Stanley Cup playoffs was the name of the game in Montreal, Bergeron and Marchand are where they need to be with just three tune-ups left until the postseason.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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