Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron got a chance to shake off the cobwebs in his first presason game Thursday. Bergeron and the Bruins got a 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers, but the veteran alternate captain – who had offseason surgery for a sports hernia – wasn’t interested in discussing the game or how his body felt after 22 shifts and 17:33 minutes played. Instead, the usually diplomatic and always classy Bergeron echoed what many NHL players have expressed in this first week of the NHL preseason. What’s the deal with the crackdown on faceoff violations?
“I wonder what they’re really trying to get out of it?” a frustrated Bergeron asked the media scrum around him after the game. “I understand that it’s feet above those lines and sticks and whatnot. That being said it also kind of sucks. Hockey is a fast game
and they’re really slowing it down.”
Bergeron didn’t exactly go on an animated but valid rant like his linemate Bard Marchand did earlier in the week, but he wasn’t done and he wanted to make sure he got his point across. The competitive, but always classy Bergeron, wondered if the skill and battle involved in faceoffs was being diminished by the crackdowns at the dot.
“I think that the faceoff is a skill and you work your whole career to develop that and you work on your hand-eye and timing and everything and they try to take that away? Bergeron asked. “You have to adapt I guess. It’s something that I’ll definitely do, but I don’t think I’m a huge fan.”
Nor are many NHL players, coaches, fans and media. The game is being dragged out; the flow diminished and what is usually a good time to evaluate the unknown on a roster, has now become more of an evaluation of special teams with so many slashing and as Bergeron lamented over, faceoff infractions. Even in the Bruins-Flyers game Thursday, there were 15 penalties called with ten going against the Boston. There was also seven slashing calls and one faceoff violation called, also against Bergeron and the Bruins.
“It gets difficult, if that’s what you’re getting at,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy answered when asked about how the constant slew of penalties has affected his evaluation of players. “Some guys get lost in the shuffle. You’re using your best players a lot in penalty kill situations that you don’t want, necessarily, to get injuries that way. And every team goes through it, you got to balance it.”
Bergeron agreed that even though these crackdowns are a nag and seem extreme, the onus will have to be on the players to adjust and find a way to overcome what has rapidly decreased the quality and flow of a game that in recent years has become faster and more entertaining.
“It’s like anything. It’s an adjustment. So we’re all going to have to adapt,” he acknowledged. “It seemed like it was
the same thing for everyone. Everyone on the other side, they were talking about it. So it’s not like we’re the only one. It’s definitely something that’s drawing a lot of attention. You just have go back and work on it and make sure I adapt. If it’s going to be like that, I need to make sure that I find a way to be good at it and help the team by winning draws.”