Just over a week ago, Patrice Bergeron had trouble breathing. His face was pale. It was not because the Blackhawks had punted the Bruins from the playoffs.
Sometime during Game 6 — Bergeron and the team suspect it was after the first period — either a broken rib or a nerve-blocking shot opened a hole in one of his lungs. By the time Bergeron arrived at Massachusetts General Hospital after the season-ending loss, the lung had collapsed.
“I felt like my chest was closing in on me,” Bergeron said Tuesday at TD Garden. “The doctors didn’t want to take any chances. There is an X-ray machine here. But you couldn’t tell, really. It wasn’t clear enough for them. So they wanted to make sure. Luckily enough, they made the right decision. I went there right away and they found out my lung had collapsed.”
The collapsed lung was the exclamation point on a bombardment of injuries Bergeron suffered during the Stanley Cup Final.
Bergeron’s troubles began in Game 4 at the Garden. Early on, Michael Frolik thumped Bergeron. The center retreated briefly to the dressing room, but returned and finished the game. The Frolik hit left Bergeron with torn rib cartilage.
Bergeron had two off days to heal. But on his first or second shift of Game 5, Bergeron absorbed a hit on his left side. The thump was strong enough to break one of his ribs. During the game, he was taken from the United Center to a local hospital. Doctors were concerned about Bergeron’s pain level, and he was admitted because of the fear of damage to his spleen.
Tests were negative. The following morning, Bergeron returned to Boston with his teammates to prepare for Game 6.
Bergeron didn’t participate in the morning skate prior to Game 6. Before warm-ups, Bergeron took a nerve-blocking shot. Bergeron explained the shot dulls the nerves for the area around six to eight ribs. It didn’t take away all of Bergeron’s pain.
“I was trying to play my game and not worry about it,” Bergeron said. “But the pain was still there.”
In the first period, more discomfort would come. During a puck battle in the corner, Bergeron tried to protect his left side. Bergeron tumbled into the boards and separated his right shoulder.
During the first intermission, Bergeron required another nerve-blocking shot to address his rib pain. Doctors believe that second shot could have punctured Bergeron’s lung. The other possibility is that Bergeron’s broken rib poked the hole in his lung.
For the rest of the game, Bergeron’s condition worsened. He played 17 minutes 45 seconds and didn’t take any shots on net.
“It could have been from getting the nerve block, or from the rib being cracked and getting checked,” Bergeron said. “I’m guessing during the game, because I felt my energy level went down during the game after the second period.”
After the loss, Bergeron’s pain and breathing trouble led him to MGH. At the hospital, doctors inserted a tube through Bergeron’s side to remove the air between his lung and rib cage. The procedure, Bergeron explained, allowed his lung to expand.
Bergeron stayed in the hospital for two days. His teammates, initially unaware of his situation after the loss, visited him at MGH. Had the Bruins won Game 6, Bergeron would not have been available for Game 7 in Chicago.
“Some people would say it’s stupid,” Bergeron said of playing through his barrage of injuries. “But it just goes with the way it is. You don’t think at that point. You’re just trying to help the team. You try to do whatever it takes. You obviously don’t want to put your health in danger. We had this conversation with the doctors. You never know what’s going to happen in a game, so there’s always a risk. At the same time, it’s our passion. It’s what you want to do. You want to win. That’s the most important thing. At that stage, at that point, there’s no regrets at all on my part. I don’t know if there’s necessarily pride. I just did whatever any of my other teammates would have done.”
Bergeron will not require surgery to fix any of his injuries and expects to be ready for training camp in September.
By then, it is likely Bergeron will have a contract extension in place. Bergeron will not reach unrestricted free agency until next summer. But Bergeron and the Bruins have been discussing an eight-year deal, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Bergeron will turn 28 this month and an eight-year extension could keep him in Black and Gold for his entire career.
“It would mean a lot,” Bergeron said of being a life-long Bruin. “That’s the goal since the beginning. It’s the team that believed in me when I was 18 and I was coming up. Now, it’s my home. I feel like it is. I love the city. I love the people. I definitely love the organization. It would mean a lot to me. Hopefully we can work something out.”