It may not be entirely fair to Patrice Bergeron that he's been consistently excellent for so long that it feels like Boston fans sometimes take him for granted.
Along with the likes of Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk and Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Bergeron is on a very short list of the top two-way forwards in the NHL as his Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) from 2011-12 proves. A second-round pick of the B’s in 2003, Bergeron was the rare rookie that made the team right out of the gate as an 18-year-old despite not being a top 30 draft choice.
Always accountable and well-spoken, Bergeron is the pro’s pro on a team full of similar personalities. When he described Boston’s mentality after their 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal on Monday, he could have been talking about himself as well.
“Our mentality all year has been 'don’t get too high or too low,'" Bergeron said. "This last stretch of the [regular] season is busy with travel and games so you get used to it, it feels like the playoffs.”
Against Montreal, Boston trailed, 1-0, virtually the entire way until Bergeron tied it late with a perfectly executed tip-in.
His Selke year (22 goals, 42 assists, plus-36) was the best of his career but he’s not far off this season with 23 goals (second on the team), 28 assists and plus-36 (which leads the NHL). Bergeron is also a force on the faceoff dot where his 58.8 percentage is third in the league. Along with fellow centers David Krejci and Chris Kelly, Bergeron is an assistant captain of what is, right now, the top team in hockey.
The legend of Bergeron grew exponentially during last season’s Stanley Cup Final vs. Chicago as he left Game 5 in an ambulance with what turned out to be a broken rib and torn cartilage. Hockey players are renowned for their toughness and lack of ego but Bergeron took it to another level as he suited up for Game 6 and even continued to play after he sustained another serious blow - a separated shoulder. While his stock has risen on the Bruins and in the NHL, Bergeron’s value has also skyrocketed internationally as he represented Team Canada last month for the second straight Olympics. This time around in Sochi, he was one of the team's top players and was shifted to Sidney Crosby’s line as Canada captured another gold medal.
Like any good player or coach, Bergeron is always focused on the next practice and game. Thursday has some added significance as Chicago returns to the Garden (7 p.m., NESN) for the first time since that fateful Game 6 when they won the Stanley Cup.
“[The Blackhawks] are a tough matchup, we expect the same type of atmosphere that we saw for Montreal,” Bergeron said.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate