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Bergeron positive about new season

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#1 Derek21


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Posted 20 August 2007 - 05:44 PM


Bergeron positive about new season
By Steve Conroy/ NHL Notes
Boston Herald Sports Reporter

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A year ago at this time, the precocious Patrice Bergeron was ready to take the next step in what had already been an impressive young career. He was just about to sign a five-year, $23.75 million deal that would cement his status as one of the young leaders of a team that, after an avalanche of offseason activity, was thought to be on the upswing.

But Bergeron, like the Bruins [team stats] as a whole, hit a speed bump called the 2006-07 season. With free agent acquisitions Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard just two of the many new faces that kept arriving throughout the season, coach Dave Lewis’ Bruins were a maddeningly inconsistent bunch and sputtered out of playoff contention.

And Bergeron himself had an uneven year.

He finished second on the team in scoring with 22-48-70 totals and led the B’s with six game-winning goals. But Bergeron, who had been a plus player in his first two seasons, was a jaw-dropping minus-28 last season. In the entire league, only Joffrey Lupul (minus-29) and R.J. Umberger (minus-32) finished with a worse rating.

It’s not what anyone, least of all Bergeron, expected.

“It’s not a stat that I’m happy about,” said Bergeron. “It’s something I’d want to adjust. But it’s not about being a minus-28, it’s more about the wins and losses that we had last year and not making the playoffs. Of course, that means I have part of the blame because I’m one of the players and I want to bring it to the playoffs. Everyone wants to do that. It was a learning year. I learned a lot and hopefully I can be better this year.”

Speaking from his home in Quebec City, Bergeron sounded both rejuvenated from his long summer and, after some reflection on the season, determined not to have a repeat. For one thing, he said he’s now fully recovered from the various nagging injuries that plagued him, the exact nature of which he remains unclear in explaining. Even now, when the hot summer sun tends to loosen lips, Bergeron wasn’t about to elaborate, saying, “It was a little bit in the legs and a few issues in the upper and lower body.” He chose to keep the details to himself.

“I don’t want to look like the guy who says that’s why I had a tough year last year,” said Bergeron, who’s been skating with some NHLers including Simon Gagne, Antoine Vermette and Francis Bouillon in Quebec. “But I feel 100 percent right now. It took me quite a while to feel better. I wish we made the playoffs last year and played longer. It was a long summer. But at the same time it gave me time to heal all the things I had.”

His body was not the only thing that challenged Bergeron, who turned 22 on July 24. With the new contract came new expectations, or so he thought.

“It was a tough year, mentally and physically. But a lot of people say that it’s in the down times that you learn the most and I think they’re right. Now I’m feeling a lot better and I’m confident that I can turn the page,” said Bergeron, who plans to come down to Boston during Labor Day weekend.

“I just learned about consistency and to have confidence in myself. And when things aren’t going right, there’s no need to push it and try to do too much. That’s what I tried to do after signing my five-year deal, but when you try to do extra things, you get away from your game. I just want to stay with what was working and things will come.”

Bergeron likes what he’s heard about new goalie Manny Fernandez and he knows all about former Senator Peter Schaefer from battling him eight times a year. And he thinks the communications skills of new coach Claude Julien, for whom he played in the World Championships two years ago, are top notch.

But what could really help the team in general, he believes, is that, aside from the aforementioned newcomers, the bulk of the team has remained intact.

“One of the factors in why we didn’t have a lot of success was that we had so many new players coming in and we had to jell together,” said Bergeron. “We had to get a feel for each other and build a new team chemistry, and I think having the same core coming back is great. I think there’s a lot to be excited about this year because all the guys are coming back.”

In no rush

Bruins [team stats] general manager Peter Chiarelli said he isn’t sure whether forward Carl Soderberg, obtained from the St. Louis Blues for goalie Hannu Toivonen [stats], will be at training camp when it opens in a few weeks.

“I’m just taking it slowly and to see where his mind is going to be really with his health issues. . . . What I don’t want to do is rush him into something when he’s physically and mentally not ready,” said Chiarelli, though he added that any physical questions he may have would stem from the player’s inactivity after suffering an eye injury in Sweden last year and not the eye itself.

Chiarelli said he’s had several conversations with the player and the lines of communication remain open. . . .

All indications point to forward Stanislav Chistov, who is rehabbing from ACL surgery, playing in Russia this year. . . .

Chiarelli said that while he’s still exploring some minor deals, the roster as it stands today won’t change much by training camp.

Losing a legend

The game lost one of its legendary figures last week when former Montreal Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock died at 81. Much like Red Auerbach, Pollock often seemed one step ahead of his counterparts.

That was never more evident than in his maneuverings to land Guy Lafleur. In 1970, a year before Lafleur’s draft eligibility, Pollock sent Ernie Hicke and a first-round pick to the bottom-feeding Oakland Seals in exchange for journeyman Francois Lacombe and the Seals’ first-rounder the following year.

Then in 1971, when the faltering Los Angeles Kings looked like they might get the top pick and thus the first crack at Lafleur, Pollock sent them veteran Ralph Backstrom to boost LA in the standings. The Seals finished last and, with their top pick, the Habs chose Lafleur.

A few days after the Bruins [team stats] drafted a college-bound goalie named Ken Dryden in 1964, Pollock got the Bruins to ship Dryden’s rights and Alex Campbell to the Habs for Guy Allen and Paul Reid, neither of whom saw a day in the NHL.

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