Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. In this second edition, Bergeron talks about what his line needs to work on, thoughts on Tim Thomas’ return and what he thinks of the Red Sox beards. --As told to Louise K. Cornetta
I still get first night jitters. Every year I do. I think it’s something special to wear the spoked-B. Opening night is always a great atmosphere. It’s been fun to be back on the ice at the Garden. Thursday was my first game here [this season] as I didn’t play any exhibition games in Boston. It was good to be back playing in front of our fans. I had worked hard to get back and it took me some time to get fully healthy. Even in training camp, it took me a little bit of time to get back at it. I feel good. It was rewarding to be back on the ice.
It was nice to get my first goal of the season on opening night. It was a great play by Adam McQuaid to force the puck in the corner there and give me the opening to get on a two on one. It was nice to get that first one out. I will continue to look forward to helping my team night in and night out.
If you asked me whether I take more pride in my offense or defensive play, I’d have to tell you that’s hard to answer. For me, I try to be sound on both sides. It’s hard to pick one. I’m as happy defending a goal and blocking a chance for them to score a goal as I am to assist or score a goal myself. I can’t really pick one.
As I talked about in the last diary, [Brad] Marchand and I have a new linemate with Loui Eriksson. I think what’s been working is the way all three of us compete and work hard and also Loui is very aware defensively. We have to play both sides of the rink because usually we’re playing the big lines. So far it’s been going well. We’ve got to communicate a lot, keep talking, and keep improving. As a line we need to work on chemistry probably. Getting to know a little bit more of where we are going to be on the ice and some more automatic knowing that the guy is going to be there instead of guessing. Once we get that, I think things will fall into place.
I like our line. I like the way we’re playing. If we keep talking , we’ll keep improving. Loui and I play a very similar type of game. The way we read plays and our willingness to play on the defensive side as well as the offensive side. I think those are the two biggest things that are similar in our play.
My goal for the season is always about pushing my limits, trying to get better and improve as much as I can. My goals for myself are always team goals. It’s about doing well as a team and going as far as we can. When you push your limits, you always want to achieve greater things. I will also use last year as motivation this year. I think you have to. I mean, you have to learn from previous experiences good or bad. Last year was a perfect example of when you’re resilient you can achieve some good things, but we didn’t finish it. When I’m talking about being resilient, I’m talking about the Toronto series. We found a way to get the win and built some character as we pulled through. But when you fall short, you’re hungrier to make it happen the next year.
As a team, so far, I think we’re a great team. We have a lot of guys who are back from past years. We have a good core of leaders but also a group of new guys that are coming in who fit in well. I think our chemistry so far has been very good. If we keep that going, it’s going to translate on the ice.
You probably saw that David Krejci will be sharing the A with Chris Kelly this season. Kelly used to share it with Andrew Ference. Ference was named Captain of his new team the Oilers. I was really happy for him. It’s well deserved. I’m not surprised at all. I think he is a great leader. I’m going to miss him. He’s a terrific guy and someone I used to hang out a lot with. I texted him about it wishing him the best. He seems very happy over there which is good for him. Same thing for Krejci, it’s very well deserved. The way he led us last year in the payoffs speaks for itself. That’s what a leader is all about, making your actions speak louder than your words. He did that.
I also wear the A. I was given the A in 2006. It meant a lot. It was a huge honor. There is so much history behind the Bruins. To be an assistant captain for this team is something very special. The duties of being an assistant captain are about leading by example on and off the ice. I think the way you carry yourself off the ice carries over to how you are on the ice. You need to make sure you do the right thing on and off the ice. Sometimes when you think your team is flat or needs a little talk, you have to step up and say something. Sometimes you have to wake the guys up or just let the guys know what I feel.
I’ve learned a lot from previous leaders in Mark Recchi and Martin Lapointe and guys like that. You can’t really change. You have to be yourself when you’re a leader. It’s not like I’m ordering the rookies around or anything. I was a rookie once and I know I learned a lot more when the older guys were nice to me and helping and teaching me. I’m trying to do that with them. I’m trying to make them feel as comfortable as they can. They’re doing a great job.
We faced one Florida team to start the season and later this month will face the other in the Florida Panthers who have Tim Thomas as their starting goalie. I was surprised that he was coming back this year. But at the same time, if there was one guy who could do it, it would be Timmy. He’s got such character, when he puts his mind to it he can achieve great things. I wish him all the best in Florida. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. It’s going to be like playing any other former teammate when we face him. It’s always different but at the same time you have to play your game.
I see the Red Sox have hockey playoff beards going except they’ve had theirs all season long. I’ve never seen a beard that long on a hockey player like they have, but that’s because they’ve kept it going for a long time now. I’ve got to give it up to them. They have some great beards going.
I am a Red Sox fan now because I’ve been here in Boston for so long. It’s such a huge thing here in Boston. I follow them as much as I can. I’m not the biggest baseball fan, but I wish them all the best obviously. Thorty [Shawn Thornton] and Johnny [Boychuk] are the diehard Red Sox fans on the team. I don’t know if he did, but I would suspect Thorty got to Game 1 on Friday. Tuukka [Rask] also gets to a few games during their season. He likes soccer better but he also likes baseball.
I’m not friends with any of the Red Sox but I’ve had a chance to meet players in the past when Josh Beckett would have his Beckett Bowl or other charity events. But my favorite player is David Ortiz because he’s the guy who’s been there the longest.
I think it’s great that every Boston team is very supportive of one another. I think that’s what you need in a city. Fans are the same way. It’s a sports town. They’re behind every team, which is great to see. Same thing for the players, I think it’s nice to have. Last year in our playoffs, we saw a couple players like Ortiz come for a game or two. It’s nice to see. Obviously we’re going to cheer for them as well and hope for the best.
I hope they go all the way and win the World Series. It would be awesome. It would be great for the city. I think the people deserve it in Boston. Last year, we fell short as we were trying to win for them. Even though it’s not going to erase everything that happened with the Marathon bombings, it’s going to hopefully help some of the people to try and forget for a little bit.