On the outside, the Bruins and head coach Claude Julien will say all the right things about their concussed centre and leading playoff point-man Patrice Bergeron. They’ll tell you that the league’s concussion protocol is being followed, and that despite the obvious importance of each Eastern Conference Final game against Tampa Bay, Bergeron’s long-term health is far more important.
They’ll mean all of this of course, but somewhere deep down on the inside Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli look something like this…
Bergeron skated with his Bruins teammates for the first time Monday since sustaining a concussion during Game 4 of Boston’s second round defeat of Philadelphia. The assembled Beantown media diligently observed Bergeron’s jersey colour, noting that he wore a white sweater, but he also mingled with the yellow sweaters.
He wore a white jersey like the top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, but did spend some time in the drills with his usual yellow-clad linemates, Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi, who were joined by Rich Peverley as Chris Kelly slid down to the third line with Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin. Bergeron did not participate in any battle drills or engage in any significant contact during the workout.
In total Bergeron practiced for an hour, and although merely seeing him on the practice ice is clearly encouraging, the only way we can even begin to draw conclusions about his playing status is by reading the last sentence of that paragraph several times. It explains that Bergeron didn’t participate in any contact drills, or engage in contact of any kind. Paint us evil speculators if you’d like, but to lace ‘em up for Game 2 it’s a reasonable assumption that Bergeron will have to demonstrate the ability to play through contact without experiencing any symptoms.
Julien was predictably tight-lipped, saying Bergeron is working through the necessary steps for his return. The only definitive statement Julien made was when he told the Boston Herald “if [Bergeron] isn’t 100%, he’ll never play.”
“It’s just something that you can’t predict how quickly or how slow it’s going to be. It’s just one of those situations where right now you see him going through what you saw him going through today, skating.”
Herein lies the dilemma for a team that looked overmatched on home ice against the Lightning in Game 1, and was unable to muster much traffic in front of Dwayne Roloson, the best goalie in the playoffs. Health and the physical well-being of a player is and always should be the primary concern, especially in a league that’s trying to be progressive and proactive in its care for head injuries. That emphasis is pushed even further given the player involved in this specific case study, a player that’s now had three concussions over his last three-and-a-half seasons. Since 2007-08 Bergeron has missed 95 games due to concussions.
While Julien watches Milan Lucic and his two goals over 12 playoff games skate around, and Boston’s powerplay continue to sputter, the urge to have Bergeron back promptly is certainly percolating somewhere in his mind. But after seeing Marc Savard struggle in his comeback attempts, that’s an urge that should be easily resisted until team doctors sign off on a clean bill of health.
So if tonight was game night, it sounds like Bergeron wouldn’t be in the lineup. And that’s fine, because Tyler Seguin is averaging a goal per game in the playoffs.