While their power play would probably be better with him, the Boston Bruins haven’t really missed a beat with Marc Savard on the shelf. It’s quite possible that another concussion to another high-level center will have a much bigger effect on this Bruins team.
If you ask me, Patrice Bergeron’s mild concussion could be a major problem. Bergeron doesn’t generate much attention since he isn’t the high scoring forward he was before his first set of concussions, but there are many who believe that he deserved a Selke Trophy nomination this season.
Even in a well-balanced attack like Boston’s, Bergeron was standing out during the first two rounds of the playoffs. He’s tied for second place in the 2011 playoffs for points scored with 12 (two goals and 10 assists) and boasts an astounding 64.2 faceoff winning percentage. His +7 rating shows that good things happen when his line is on the ice.
Bergeron’s slick passing skills and great two-way play fueled a great line with Brad Machand (five goals and six assists for 11 points) and Mark Recchi (two goals and five assists for seven points). As dominant as the Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic line was in Round 2, Bergeron powered the team’s most consistent line.
Now someone else will need to try to maintain that strong second line play. Bergeron is expected to miss at least the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, but let’s face it; concussion symptoms can linger for random amounts of time. It’s possible that the Bruins will need a longer term fix. Here are three candidates who are most likely to step in for Bergeron.
1. Chris Kelly – Kelly’s been a fantastic addition to the Bruins lineup, as he’s enjoying great chemistry on the third line with Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder. Kelly is the most likely fit because, like Bergeron, he’s a responsible player in his own zone. Here’s what Bruins coach Claude Julien said about Kelly.
“Kelly is a good two-way player. He makes strong plays and we’ve seen him on that other line and his style of play is not unlike Bergy’s,” said Chiarelli. “Watching him (Friday) night it looks like it would be a good fit.”
2. Rich Peverley – Speaking of Peverley, he’s closer to Bergeron’s level from an offensive standpoint. He is a nice playmaker, but might be a defensive liability against the Tampa Bay Lightning’s better offensive players.
3. Tyler Seguin – As Joe pointed out, Seguin will get his chance to play in the postseason with Bergeron’s injury. Seguin is a raw offensive talent who isn’t quite there yet, but who knows, the playoffs might be a good launching pad for the second pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The fact that he’s been a healthy scratch in the playoffs shows that he must earn Julien’s trust to get big minutes, though.
One bonus with the unlikely choice of lining Seguin up with Recchi and Marchand is that the team could keep the Peverley-Kelly-Ryder line together.
The Bruins will do their best to replace Bergeron for however long he’s out, but it’s unlikely that they’ll find a player at his level. That being said, they do have some options. All three of the choices above are considered “natural” centers, so Julien can mix-and-match to see what the best option might be. This team already excels with an offense-by-committee approach, so it might not be crazy to think that everyone can step it up a bit in Bergeron’s absence.