Patrice Bergeron has not played a full season’s worth of Game 7s in his 18-year career with the Bruins. It only seems that way.
Going into Saturday’s Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes, Bergeron has played in 12 previous ones, going 6-6 thus far. He has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He scored two goals in the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup-winning Game 7 in Vancouver (the last of three Game 7 wins in that magical run) and his overtime goal against Toronto in 2013 — eliciting former radio play-by-play man Dave Goucher’s call of “Bergeron! Bergeron! Bergeron!” — is arguably second only to Bobby Orr’s Cup-clinching flying goal in 1970 in Bruins mythology.
Bergeron also was on the losing end of the B’s soul-crushing collapse against the Flyers in 2010, when they had a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7. He’s suffered overtime losses at home to Carolina (2009) and Washington (2012). And, of course, there was the most recent Game 7, the Garden loss to St. Louis in 2019 in the Finals.
So he’s seen a thing or two, Bergeron has. And the thing he has learned the most about these do-or-die games — the ones that have the normal folks at home gnawing on throw pillows with their hearts beating out of their chests with the anxiety they can induce — is just embrace it
“You’ve got to enjoy it. That’s why you play the game,” said Bergeron on Friday before the B’s chartered to Raleigh, N.C. “That’s the biggest thing about it. Make sure you relish the moment and make the most of it. Obviously the adrenaline and energy is always increased. But that said, it’s still the game of hockey.”
Bergeron’s first Game 7 was in his rookie season in 2004, when the B’s had a 3-1 series lead only to lose to Montreal 2-0 at home in the last game. It was then that Bergeron began storing his wisdom for moments like this.
“When you’re younger, you think you’re going to have many cracks at it. And that’s something that even (former B’s coach and current Penguins coach) Mike Sullivan, back in the day, told me. ‘It goes fast,’” said Bergeron. “And it’s cliché, but it does go fast and you’re going to wish that you paid more attention. … You want to seize the opportunities that are right in front of you rather than thinking about next year if it doesn’t work out. That’s something I’ve tried to share over the last few years as I get older. You don’t have great teams very often, teams that can actually do it. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s not like every year that you feel good about your team. You’ve got to make sure you’re engaged and be ready to make the most of it.”
At 36, with his playoff beard already in full sprout and his battered right eye area looking nasty, Bergeron right now looks like the mold from which all “grizzled veterans” are made.
But as much as he tries to impart the things he’s learned along the way to his less experienced teammates, it doesn’t hurt to have some guys who don’t know any better. After all, when the B’s won the Cup in 2011, Brad Marchand — attached at the hip with Bergeron ever since that season — was a brash rookie who just played with a joyous ferocity that was pivotal for that team.
When the B’s take the ice at PNC Arena on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., much of their hopes will be resting on the shoulders of a young rookie from Alaska, goalie Jeremy Swayman, who seems to have been walking around all season with a perma-smile.
That’s not a bad thing, either.
“It goes both ways,” said Bergeron. “I’m trying to talk about the experience that I have, but those guys bring the energy and youthfulness. They’re just happy to be there and just want to play the game and be at their best. And I think it’s good sometimes to have that mindset as well, to just go out there and play well, play the game of hockey. Just like we did when we were teenagers. It goes both ways sometimes. It’s a good reminder when you see guys with smiles on their faces, guys like (David Pastrnak) or Sway or (Connor) Clifton or (Anton) Blidh, all the guys who’ve been around who are still young in the league. It’s nice to have both sides and learn from both sides.”
Many players have said that they hate losing more than they love winning. But as Bergeron suits up for what could be his final game — he does not have a contract for next year because he has not decided if he wants to continue his Hall of Fame career — he had a difficult time weighing those highs and lows against each other.
“Obviously, you try to remember the good ones, right?” he said with a chuckle. “But the ones that sting the most are the not-so-good ones. Tough question. Hard to give you an answer. I think it’s probably a little bit of both. You try to see the glass half full and you try to reminisce on the good ones. But it also makes you hungrier when you think about the other ones.”
Whether Bergeron ultimately feeds on the positive or negative energy, he’s got a reservoir of both from which to draw.