Leaders lead and closers close.
For the Bruins, that’s a two-birds, one-stone kind of operating procedure, too, as captain Patrice Bergeron both led and closed in Sunday’s series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Capitals at Capital One Arena.
“I mean, we could talk about him all day,” Bruin head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted after the 3-1 victory. “So happy to see him get his first series win as a captain.”
It was a series win the 35-year-old had a definite hand in when it came winning time, too, with a pair of goals (including the game-winning tally) along with a team-best 60 percent success rate at the dot in 17:53 of work by the night’s end.
“He’s been one of our many leaders for years now,” Tuukka Rask said of Bergeron. “Now he just has the captain’s letter on his chest, [but] he hasn’t changed at all. I think everybody knows what kind of player and a person he is. And especially in a clutch game like tonight, nobody should be surprised that he scored a goal or two. I think he just wants to be himself, lead vocally and by example, and he’s done that all year and and even in the playoffs.”
But to fully understand Bergeron’s impact in the Bruins punching their ticket to the second round for the fourth straight postseason, you have to look beyond the box score stuffings and instead focus on the context of his latest closeout killing.
With the Bruins up two and 20 minutes away from eliminating the Capitals, it was Conor Sheary who was allowed easy access to the Boston net for his own rebound and banged home the lone Capital goal of the evening. Bergeron, of course, had a front row seat to the Sheary goal that got you worrying about a white-knuckle ride to the finish. Now, it could’ve been a shot of adrenaline to the Capitals, and forced the Bruins into another trek back to Boston for a Game 6. That, with the chance to get some rest after a hellacious schedule, was the last thing the Bruins wanted. Behind giving Washington hope, anyway.
And it was Bergeron who made sure the goal was nothing but a footnote in your morning recaps with the true putaway tally, scored 12:14 after Sheary’s tally, and off a pickpocketing of an unsuspecting TJ Oshie.
Patrice Bergeron, again.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 24, 2021
3-1 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/BxUFi5fpYL
We’re at the point where Bergeron’s details are nothing new. They’re why he’s perhaps the greatest two-way center of his generation, and why he’s another Selke Trophy win from an all-time record. But this felt like a straight-up motivated Bergeron willing his way into making sure that there was no doubt in this one, and in true Bergeron fashion.
“I thought we stayed with it,” Bergeron said. “We didn’t really get rattled with it and we just went right back on our toes and tried to get back at it. I thought we had some good looks and finally got that third one to give us a little breathing room.”
“Listen, Bergy’s never happy when a puck goes in [Boston’s net] when he’s on the ice, and usually it’s because he was probably doing the right thing,” Cassidy offered. “He’s a guy that’s led this team for a lot of years and this is his first year with the ‘C’ on it, so he wants to sort of put his signature on this club’s regular season and now obviously the playoffs. So he’s digging a little deeper, if that’s possible for him, because I think he’s a guy that shows up every night and gives it everything he’s got.”
Reaching into the bucket for something extra, of course, is nothing new to No. 37. In fact, with Sunday’s two-goal performance, Bergeron has now scored eight goals and 16 points in 15 elimination games since the start of the 2017 postseason. He’s also just one goal away from matching Cam Neely’s franchise playoff record of 11 game-winning postseason goals, and is within one tally of tying Rick Middle and Phil Esposito for the second-most playoff goals in team history, with 46. (Neely, in case you’re wondering, is the franchise leader in that category, too, with 55 goals in 86 career playoff games.)
“That’s why you play the game,” a smiling Bergeron said of his playoff success. “It’s just the the adrenaline and the feeling you get. It’s always special this time of the year. You try to stay in the moment, and that’s what I’m trying to tell the guys. You got to enjoy yourself. You can’t put too much weight on your shoulders. You got to go out there and play and execute and be the team that we can be night in and night out. And I thought we said started moment tonight and we got it done.”
Bergeron’s message has rubbed off on his linemates, too, as we’ve seen with the multi-year transformation of Brad Marchand into Marchand’s left-hand man on both his line and on the leadership front, and with David Pastrnak breaking through for a stong finish to his first-round series after being snake-bit through the first three games of action.
“He’s been unbelievable and I’m really happy for him,” said Pastrnak. “And hopefully we won’t stop here.”
And it won’t be. Not if Closeout Bergeron has anything to say about it.
The Bruins are moving on to the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs after dispatching of the Washington Capitals in five games. Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub are here to break it down with another postgame podcast, which you can listen to above.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.