Patrice Bergeron: ‘Sorry Canada, but I’ve got to go with the Stanley Cup’

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It’s pretty hard to believe that Patrice Bergeron is only 25 years old. I don’t mean that in the typical “This guy managed all these accomplishments and made all that money” tone that people use when discussing most young professional athletes, either.

Nope, what makes Bergeron’s young age stunning is all of the valleys that came with his peaks. There was a time when concussion issues seemed like they would crush a promising young career entirely, but Bergeron gradually fought back from those problems to become an extremely underrated two-way forward for the Boston Bruins.

Of course, then he suffered another concussion in the 2011 playoffs, this time from a hit by Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. That injury seemed very troubling – especially considering his lengthy history of head issues – yet Bergeron only missed two postseason games thanks to the long break the Bruins earned by sweeping the Flyers.

He seemingly didn’t miss a beat when he came back, either. He scored nearly a point per game overall in the postseason (20 in 23 games) including two big goals and a +4 rating in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Bergeron was also an assassin in the faceoff circle, winning an astounding 60.2 percent of the draws he took.

Of course, winning the Stanley Cup isn’t the only great moment Bergeron experienced in Vancouver: he also won the gold medal with Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics. When asked to compare the thrills of both victories, he favored the Stanley Cup, though.

“It is amazing. It is an unbelievable feeling,” Bergeron said. “This is for us as a team but also for the city of Boston. They’ve waited so long for that — too long for that. To have a chance to be part of the team that is bringing it back means a lot to me.”

(snip)

“Sorry Canada, but I’ve got to go with the Stanley Cup,” Bergeron said when asked to compare the feeling of winning the Cup and an Olympic gold medal, which he did with Canada in February 2010. “The gold medal is up high for sure, but this is a childhood dream. When you’re playing hockey, you’re thinking about hoisting the Cup. Now I’ve had that chance. I was five years old and playing outside with my brother. We were always dreaming about winning that Cup. To have a chance to get it now is amazing, but that gold medal is something special too.”

Before people start flipping over cars again, it’s probably important to note a few key reasons why he might feel more attached to a Cup win than a gold medal win. Here are the top two ones:

1. The huge difference in the number of games played.

To win the Cup, Bergeron played in 103 of the Bruins’ 107 games between the 2010-11 season and the playoffs (Bergeron missed two games in the regular season and two in the postseason). Obviously, those contests include the ups and downs of a long regular season and the grind of the playoffs.

Compare those 103 contests to just seven games played in the Olympics and it’s beyond reasonable that Bergeron feels this way.

2. He played a bigger role with the Bruins

While spending much of his time with Sidney Crosby isn’t exactly dealing with table scraps, Bergeron finished the Olympics with zero goals and one assist in seven games. With all due respect to his talents, he was relatively anonymous on a team full of stars. There are probably a significant amount of casual fans who didn’t even know he made the team.

Meanwhile, in Boston, he was either the No. 2 center or the “1b” to David Krejci’s “1a.” His 20 points left him in second place on the team in playoff scoring and his absence was felt in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

Maybe he wouldn’t have had the same dreams if he didn’t grow up in Canada, but it shouldn’t be that surprising that Bergeron preferred winning the Cup to winning the gold. Too bad we all can’t have such “tough questions” to answer, though.

Wild GM is hopeful prized prospect Kirill Kaprizov will join Minny for 2018-19 season

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With rumors on social media suggesting prized Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov has agreed to terms on a long-term deal in the KHL, Minnesota’s general manager Chuck Fletcher has decided to clear the air.

The Wild selected Kaprizov, a five-foot-nine-inch tall forward, in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft.

He had 42 points in 49 regular season games in the KHL this year — promising, if not impressive numbers for the now 20-year-old Kaprizov. He also lit up the 2017 world juniors, with nine goals and 12 points in seven games.

He was recently traded to CSKA Moscow. Despite reports of this long-term deal to stay in Russia, Fletcher, speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, seemed confident the Wild will be able to bring Kaprizov into their lineup for the 2018-19 season.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“We’ve been in contact with his agent over the last couple weeks and we haven’t been made aware of anything like you’re communicating to me,” Fletcher said. “We’re operating under the assumption he’s got a year left. He’s going to play for CSKA, and then he’s interested in coming over and playing for the Wild for the 18-19 season. He’s a heckuva player. I think he’ll be ready to step in and be a good hockey player for us a year from now. That’s our expectation and our hope. We haven’t been notified of anything to the contrary.

“There was a rumor a few weeks ago of something to this effect, too, and his agent shot it down and said it wasn’t true. It’s just been communicated to us that he’s going to play for CSKA another year, and our hope he’s going to suit up for the Wild in 18-19.”

There has also been a recent report that it’s expected former Sabres general manager Tim Murray will join the Wild.

Fletcher also shot down that report for right now, saying it wasn’t “accurate,” although his full comments didn’t completely shut the door on the possibility of such a scenario happening further along down the road.

“We’ll see what the future brings, but right now, that’s not true at all. There’d be a lot of hoops and hurdles there, and it’s not even a good thing to speculate on because there’s nothing true to that at all right now. That’s not true at all.”

Related: Wild owner confirms Fletcher safe as GM

AP sources: Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at Naval Academy

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Two people with knowledge of the situation say the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play an outdoor game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, next season.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the NHL had not announced the event. The game is scheduled to be played March 3 at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that hosts Navy football games.

It will be the first NHL outdoor game at a U.S. service academy, though quite possibly not the last. The league has explored doing games at the Army’s home at West Point and at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third outdoor game for the Capitals and Maple Leafs and the first in the Washington area since the 2015 Winter Classic downtown at Nationals Park.

Capitals-Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy will be one of at least three outdoor games next season. The Ottawa Senators will host the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic on Dec. 19, and the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres will play in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York.

NHL Network revealed on air that the league would announce a game at Navy on Monday.

Trio of Red Wings prospects ‘making a statement’ in AHL Calder Cup playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings saw their playoff streak come to an end earlier this spring, but their farm team in Grand Rapids continues its postseason run, qualifying for the Calder Cup final.

The Griffins clinched a spot in the championship series with a 4-2 win against the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday.

It has been during this playoff run that a trio of prospect forwards seem to have left quite an impression on Detroit’s coaching staff, led by Jeff Blashill.

Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov have all been productive for the Griffins throughout this AHL postseason. This could help put them into the conversation for NHL roster spots in the fall, and present something of a youth movement in Detroit after years and years of chasing the playoffs.

Nosek is the oldest of the three at 24 years of age. Bertuzzi is 22 years old, and Svechnikov is only 20.

“I don’t know what all the pieces will be for us next season, but certainly Nosek made us confident he can be an effective NHL player,” said Blashill, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Bertuzzi and Svechnikov, they are making a statement as well. They are becoming elite players in the AHL playoffs, and those are statements you want to make. We’ll look at them in camp and make our decisions based on who is going to make us better.”

The team’s general manager, Ken Holland, has in the past expressed his hesitation about a full-on rebuild, but after missing the playoffs, the Red Wings have an important few weeks ahead of them and the future of their franchise. They currently have the ninth overall pick in the NHL Draft following April’s lottery, and, after a busy trade deadline, four third-round picks, according to CapFriendly.

With six picks in the first three rounds, and 11 picks in total, Detroit should be able to help further stockpile their organization with a number of promising young prospects. It’s been suggested that the areas of concern for the Red Wings heading into the draft are up the middle and on the blue line.

Up front, all three aforementioned forwards — Nosek, Bertuzzi and Svechnikov — spent some time with the Red Wings this past regular season. Nosek and Bertuzzi each improved their overall point totals this season compared to 2015-16, and have been able to maintain a point-per-game pace in the playoffs. In Nosek’s case, he’s just over a point per game. Svechnikov had 20 goals and 51 points in 74 regular season games — his first full AHL campaign.

“Certainly part of us getting better next year is the young people on the (Red Wings) taking a step,” Holland told MLive.com. “And, hopefully, there is a player or two or three here that can push their way onto the team.”

Coyotes’ Rieder undergoes ankle surgery, expected to be out 8-12 weeks

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Tobias Rieder underwent ankle surgery after suffering an injury at the recently concluded World Hockey Championship, the Arizona Coyotes announced on Saturday.

Per the Coyotes, the operation was successful and he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 24-year-old right winger is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks, as he goes through rehab.

With that timeline, he should be ready for training camp in September.

For the second straight year, Rieder was injured while playing for Germany in the IIHF tournament. Initially, it was reported that the Coyotes didn’t believe this latest injury was serious.

This past season, Rieder scored a single-season career best 16 goals in 80 games. He’s about to enter the final year of his two-year contract, which has an annual cap hit of $2.225 million.