Patrice Bergeron stood at his stall, a blank stare on his face. He struggled to answer questions on his future, his health and what went wrong in a series that the Bruins once held a 3-1 lead in.
Bergeron has done this many times, but this one was clearly different.
The pain in his eyes was different.
His body language was different.
His tone was different.
Yes, the herniated disc that Bergeron revealed he was playing through was a problem, but this loss hurts for a different reason.
Sunday’s overtime loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of their best-of-seven series was likely the end of Bergeron’s hall-of-fame career.
“I’m going to take some time and talk with the family and go from there,” Bergeron said. “Right now, it’s hard to process anything. Obviously, we’re shocked and disappointed. So that’s it.”
The Bruins season wasn’t supposed to end this way, this early at least. Credit to the Panthers for identifying the holes in the Bruins game and perfectly exploiting the Bruins’ weaknesses.
“They deserve all the credit. They got it done. They got the goals when they needed them,” Bergeron said. “There’s no excuses for — I’m not going to use any excuses on bounces. They did the job. They move on.”
Moving on from this one is going to be difficult.
With the return of Bergeron and David Krejci, the Bruins had real “last dance” vibes. The emotions of Bergeron and Krejci following Carter Verhaeghe’s overtime dagger showed two men who knew Sunday was the final chapters of their amazing careers.
“Incredible experience, you know, just because his awareness, his maturity, his ability to communicate,” head coach Jim Montgomery said of getting to coach Bergeron. “His ability to listen as part of that communication and then just how great a hockey player he is — learned a lot from him this year, hope to learn more next year.”
After a season ends without a parade of the Stanley Cup around the ice, there’s always dozens of questions and second guesses. Should have done X, should have played Y, should have played Z more minutes.
You can ask if playing Bergeron was the right move, especially after seeing the Bruins go 0-3 with him in the lineup, blowing a 3-1 series lead in the process,
Keeping Bergeron off the ice for the entire series was never an option.
“In the playoffs, you want to come back,” Bergeron said. “You want to come back as quickly as possible.”
As he does after every playoff defeat, watching Bergeron embrace his teammates was difficult to watch. His extended embrace with Brad Marchand brought tears to many of eyes, Bergeron’s included.
“Yeah, it’s emotional, you don’t know about the guy’s future. It’s tough, we were hoping to make a good long run here all together, and it’s tough for everybody,” Marchand said. “He’s just a world class leader and person.”
The ending to the Bruins season is disappointing in many ways, we’ll dissect that in the days to come.
Time eventually heals all wounds, however, that doesn’t make the realization that this is likely the end of the road for Bergeron, for Krejci, together with this group any easier.
“Like we always say, it’s always an honor to play with these guys,” Bergeron said. “You compete. It’s been over a decade. It’s a special bond, and that’s it.”
Will Bergeron give the Bruins one more year?