Call him Mr. Perfect.
His teammates do.
Without irony and without malice, this is how the Boston Bruins see Patrice Bergeron. He is the perfect hockey player. Check that. He is the perfect person.
“I think when you see him and the way that he is, especially after three years of experience with him, you just kind of think of him as Mr. Perfect. So we have a lot of fun teasing him with that kind of stuff,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said.
“I don’t think there’s any particular thing that I could characterize — it’s everything,” Carlo explained. “Everything. That guy, he’s got it all. As a younger guy you definitely look up to somebody like him, just with all that he’s accomplished, but mainly the man that he is off the ice. He’s so nice to all of us young guys, he’s always there for us. When I’ve been injured he’s been one of the first guys to personally text me and it’s just fantastic. His character is truly something that you strive to be like.”
The 10-day run-up to the Stanley Cup has allowed plenty of time to shine a light on everything that has gone right for the Bruins this postseason, including the four-game Eastern Conference Final sweep that earned them such a rare May vacation. And one storyline that should absolutely not be missed is the ongoing brilliance of Bergeron. It’s not as if there is new ground to break around the now 33-year-old forward who broke into the NHL at the tender age of 18 and made it certain he would never leave. It’s more that the ground around him doesn’t always get covered enough.
That’s the unfortunate surcharge for being so good at hockey, the fourth sport in line for popularity among its brethren from the NFL, MLB, and NBA. But as Bergeron goes for his second Cup (in his third try), it’s the perfect time to remember the unassuming superstar in black and gold, the man whose humility has him cringing at the Mr. Perfect moniker.
“I definitely don’t believe that,” he said Sunday, the din of the NHL’s media day humming around him. “I mean I try to pride myself in trying to do the right thing, but in no point, shape or form am I perfect. I take that with a grain of salt and I think guys are more teasing me with that than anything else.”
He can take it. Bergeron has grown up with this team, and in front of this Boston fan base, arriving as a fresh-faced native French speaker and growing into this beautifully fluent English speaker as well, as deserving a star as any of the contemporaries who have risen across these remarkable past two decades of New England’s sporting dominance.
“He belongs with any of them. Of course he does,” Charlie Coyle said. “There’s no question. There’s so many different ways to explain it but a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Not many people can [stay with one team] and have the career that he’s had and all the accolades and achievements.”
If Tom Brady has made a point of jumping into Zdeno Chara’s Instagram comments to congratulate the Bruins during this playoff run — and as matching 40-something professionals, they make a logical pair — Brady’s truer counterpart might be Bergeron. When Brady spent some of his pre-Super Bowl days reflecting on his own Boston maturation, noting correctly that he’s spent more time with coaches such as Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia than he had with his own parents, he could have been speaking for Bergeron, too.
They are Boston bedrock. Both drafted by the team they still play for, both winners on the ultimate stage. Not a perfect comparison when you consider Brady has six championships to Bergeron’s one, but an apt one nonetheless.
“If you look at that whole process [of being drafted in Boston] to now, Patrice is the face of the franchise for the last X amount of years. That’s what he is in the market,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “How does that compare to Brady? Well Brady has six, right? I got it right, six Super Bowl rings. So you know Bergy’s a ways away from that unfortunately for him, good for the Patriots. As for the Red Sox, it’s a good question. Who would it be? Is it [Dustin] Pedroia maybe? But he’s not now as . . . Mookie’s [Betts] starting to become the young guy that’s maybe Pasta [David Pastrnak]. So I got to believe with the Celtics they’ve had some turnover, so Bergy, you guys tell me, you cover it more than I do, would he be the second-most or . . . that’s something you guys can debate, but he’s certainly up there. With the Patriots success, you’re probably playing second fiddle, rightfully so, but certainly for us he’s up there.”
Up there as Mr. Perfect.
Perfect toughness, as in returning from a career-threatening back and neck injury that ended his 2007 season and playing in the 2013 Cup Final despite a punctured lung, broken rib and separated shoulder.
Perfect clutch gene, as in scoring the regulation game-tying goal with 51 seconds left and adding the overtime game-winner in the unforgettable Game 7 2013 win over Toronto, or scoring two goals in the Stanley Cup clincher in 2011.
Perfect leadership profile, where he might not be a captain in deference to Chara, but has worn an alternate “A” since the age of 21, and where you only have to listen as Cassidy never fails to purposefully mention Bergeron alongside Chara in any discussion of why this locker room operates so well.
Perfect talent, as in an eighth straight finalist nomination for the Selke award, for which he’s finished in the top five every year since 2010, and with which he would set a new NHL record at five overall with a win this year.
Perfect perspective, as in speaking often of the appreciation he has for making it back to this stage — “you realize how hard it is to get to this point and advance, and you’ve got to be thankful,” he said — or in sharing the moment with his two young children by bringing them onto the practice arena ice for an off-day skate early last week.
So, Torey Krug, when I say Bergeron you say . . .
“Perfection,” Krug says after a thoughtful pause. “That’s a word that you can’t throw around too much and you don’t want to use too much. But that’s what it is. He’s a perfect two-way player, just a great person, a great friend, a great teammate, a great father, the list goes on and on. He’s a special person.”
“He does everything right, both sides of the puck and just the way he’s so responsible with his game is so impressive,” Coyle added. “He’s just so perfect in that way.”
Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.
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