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.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.