When the Boston Bruins drop the puck against the New York Rangers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. (NESN and NHL Network), it will be the start to Patrice Bergeron‘s ninth season in the Black and Gold, making him the team’s longest-tenured player. Plus, he’s the guy featured on the right side of the Bruins’ homepage–oh, and the defending Selke Trophy winner, too.
In previewing the Bruins’ opening long weekend, which will see them play the Rangers and then the Winnipeg Jets in a 1 p.m. matinee on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, he also kept it humble and praised the two teams that will be entering TD Garden as adversaries.
“[The Rangers] had a good run last year. We know that it’s a team that’s been together for a couple years, that’s been improving. It’s always a tough battle against them and we’re expecting that Saturday, as well,” he said.
He’s right. The Rangers led the Eastern Conference last season and were so successful that their fans were maybe even starting to don their old grunge clothes and put on Nirvana CDs because it felt so much like 1994. Of course, they fell short of making it 1994 all over again, but still.
In the four-game series with New York in 2011-12, the Bruins won only one of the matches, 2-1 on April 1. (Bergeron scored one of the two goals in that game.) There was a 3-2 overtime loss on Jan. 21, a heartbreaker of a 3-0 shutout loss on Valentine’s Day and a 4-3 loss on March 4.
Much of that has to do with Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist. But let’s not forget that Saturday night will also be the debut of Rick Nash as a Blueshirt.
“He’s got a lot of speed, he uses his body well and uses his speed as well, to go wide on defensemen,” Bergeron said. “He’s a very smart player, we need to be aware when he is on the ice. I think what we need to expect out of a guy like him is speed, but also his skills and his vision.”
Bergeron also talked about the Jets, a team that is staying put in the Eastern Conference for now.
“We can’t forget, in between, Winnipeg is a great team also, with some young talent. So, it’s going to be a good challenge right off the bat, but we need to be ready for that,” he said.
The Bruins fared a bit better against the Jets last season, though. They won 4-2 on Nov. 26 and 5-3 on Jan. 10, but lost 2-1 on Dec. 6 and 4-2 on Feb. 17.
Regarding his linemates, who were often so dynamic during last season, Bergeron especially praised Tyler Seguin for his learning and growth while playing in Switzerland.
“Even in Europe, he was really playing well over there. So I think he’s coming in with a lot of confidence in himself and also in the team,” he said. “He knows what to expect, but he’s still 20, remember that…It’s about the whole team here and not just Seguin.”
While that’s true, Seguin is one of the three players mentioned by name in NHL.com’s first power rankings of the season–which place the Bruins atop the league, even above the Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They predict he could even become a point-per-game player, something that I’m sure Bergeron would be proud of as one of the team’s leaders.