Bruins season ends, focus on Patrice Bergeron’s future

RALEIGH, NC — Patrice Bergeron bent at the waist, stick tucked in his lap, as any player who’s had his heart ripped out knows all too well.

He shot in the neutral zone. He tapped Charlie McAvoy with his stick. He did the same with several teammates.

Then Bergeron approached the center of the ice. As captain, he wanted to lead his teammates into the handshake line.

He shook hands with all his opponents. He did the same with referees Chris Lee and Steve Kozari and linesmen Jonny Murray and Ryan Gibbons.

He skated to the door in front of the viewing tunnel. He hugged every teammate.

It is unclear whether these were actions of a captain or a future ex-Bruin.

“It’s too early right now,” Bergeron said after the 3-2 loss in Game 7 when asked if he could share his thoughts on his decision on his future. “Not after…it’s too chilly right now.” It still stings, of course, from a hard-fought series. Came short. Of course, I will have to think about it. But I’m not there yet. »

Patrice Bergeron and Jordan Staal (James Guillory/USA Today)

Bergeron’s contract ends. If he wants to continue, it’s up to him. The Bruins would love to see him back, maybe on a year-to-year basis.

But Bergeron is proud of excellence. He is not wired to be a player who accepts slip-ups. His post-game appearance—bright blue suit, blue tie, hair combed to perfection, all completing the stitches under his right eye—signals his pursuit of perfection.

No one knows that better than their closest teammate.

“Uh, yeah,” said Brad Marchand, after a long pause, with a tremor in his voice. “He is the backbone of our team. Obviously the biggest part of our team. So obviously, yes, we want him back. But no matter what, he has earned the right to make the decision he wants and take the time he needs. I guess time will tell.

Marchand has been through it all with his longtime center. That he could find himself chasing a second Stanley Cup without Bergeron at the same pace isn’t something the left-winger finds enjoyable.

“That’s why this one probably hurts more, it’s the unknown for next year with him,” Marchand said after another break to collect himself. “He did so much for this group and sacrificed so much that it would have been nice to have a good run for him. So it’s disappointing. »

Marchand believed he and Bergeron were leading a lineup designed to play for several more rounds. The Bruins were unlucky, however, to have arguably their toughest game in the opener. The Hurricanes defended hard, pressured the Bruins all over the ice, scored opportunistic goals and made timely saves.

“We knew it would be an uphill battle,” Marchand said. “But we also knew that if we got through this team, we would make a deep run. I think that’s probably the hardest band to get out of the East, this band. Obviously, we hoped to beat them. It always hurts. He always will be. You only get a few opportunities like these throughout your career where you have a legitimate chance to go far. We thought we would have that this year. So yes, it hurts.

There wasn’t much difference between the two teams, as a seven-game streak would indicate. The separation may have been an inch – the margin by which Trent Frederic’s second-half warmer shook the right post instead of beating Antti Raanta.

But this post strike led to a chance in the other direction. Instead of making it a 2-2 game, a disappointed Frederic drifted into no man’s land in the defensive zone. When a ledge around the wall came to Teuvo Teravainen, the Carolina winger saw that Frederic had left the passing lane open. Teravainen saw him and found Max Domi in front.

What could have been a tie turned into a 3-1 advantage over Carolina.

“We’re proud of the D-Zone coverage, things that we’ve done really well all year,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Two breakdowns which, yes, they make games. But more on us for not doing the job defensively – good spots, good sticks. That’s probably where I’m most disappointed: that’s how you end up dropping goals. It’s game 89. We’re proud of it. They’ve done a really good job up and down the lineup no matter who’s in the game. I owe them credit for finishing these games when we weren’t in the right places.

Frédéric and his third line teammates were also on the ice for the first goal. The streak started with Mike Reilly not having a good gap on Vincent Trocheck. It was a talking point before Game 7. Cassidy reminded his players that they had gotten a lot better at denying zone entries.

“There’s a bit where it starts,” Cassidy said. “That was one of the main focuses of our meeting today. We thought we were much better as the show continued to be on them, forcing them to follow us. Then we’re going to take the pucks out in a group of five. We weren’t standing. So they get in.

Trocheck got a head start on Reilly. He wrapped around the net and threw a puck to the left spot. Frédéric and Charlie Coyle hesitated on the mission. This gave Jaccob Slavin time to find Domi at the far post. Meanwhile, Brandon Carlo was left alone to defend Domi and Teravainen up front before Reilly could fall back forward.

It was too much for Carlo to handle. For the sixth time in the series, the Bruins allowed the first goal.

“It’s quick. It happened quickly,” Cassidy said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make the switch in a timely manner. They converted on a good game.

The Bruins had Class A chances. In the first, when it was 0-0, Erik Haula and Taylor Hall broke away for a two-on-one run. Raanta pushed from left to right to get a last-second pad on Hall’s point-blank opportunity.

In the third, down 3-1, Coyle and Craig Smith broke away for a two-on-one approach. Coyle accepted Smith’s pass and saw a wide open net. But the puck fell off Coyle’s stick.

David Pastrnak scored with 21.7 seconds left. It’s the closest thing the Bruins have come.

The Bruins are now awaiting Bergeron’s decision. He may be thinking of handing over the keys to Marchand, Pastrnak, Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, who all wore letters this season.

“It’s something I was taught, to be honest with you, early in my career,” Bergeron said of taking on the next level. “It must be a cycle, basically. When it’s your turn, you have to give it back and you have to do it. We have very good young players who are open to listening and learning. You see the growth of these guys: McAvoy, Carlo, Pasta. It’s impressive. It’s great to see.

(Top photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images))

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