Bruins fans are probably already aware of this, but Patrice Bergeron has very quietly become one of the best all-around forwards in the NHL over the last three seasons. A legitimate Selke candidate, Bergeron is now also making a case for Conn Smythe consideration through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Like Jordan Staal, Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk, Bergeron tends to spend a lot of time in his own zone against the other teams best players. This past regular season, for example, Bergeron’s offensive-to-defensive zone start ratio was just 42.7%, one of the lowest rates on the Bruins and, indeed, amongst regular skaters in the NHL. In raw numbers, Bergeron took 112 more draws in the defensive zone than the offensive end, by far the most for Boston.
On top of that tough assignment, Bergeron was frequently tasked with shutting down other club’s top guns. No forward faced tougher competition than Bergeron on the Bruins, with the only guy coming close being frequent line mate Brad Marchand. Despite these brutal circumstances, Bergeron finished the year with one of the best possession rates on the Bruins (+10.19 corsi/60). The only other regular skater with a better rate was Nathan Horton (+13.34), and he played against middling competition and had a zone start ratio nearly 10% higher (52.3%). Altogether, this means that Bergeron started out more often in his own end against other top six players and still managed to spend more time in the offensive zone at even strength than just about every other player on his team.
That was the regular season, of course, but he’s doing it again in the playoffs: in 10 games played, his zone start is again a team low 43.3% but his possession rate is again healthy (+16.45 corsi/60). On top of all that, he’s operating at a better than point-per-game pace thus far.
If Boston makes it to the finals, Bergeron will be a big reason why. He’s probably the team’s most valuable forward at 5-on-5 currently. Now if he could just start scoring on the power-play…