WILMINGTON — Patrice Bergeron was back on the ice at Ristuccia Arena Wednesday as the Bruins continued preparations for their first-round playoff series against the Red Wings, which begins Friday night at TD Garden.
Bergeron said he appreciated the extra rest given by the coaching staff but was happy to be back with his teammates.
“I’m feeling good, it’s been good to have the rest and I was looking forward to going on the ice today,’’ said Bergeron. “Obviously, the coaches are doing a great job of getting us ready in the practices and also [with] the videos to make sure we know the tendencies of the Red Wings. It’s definitely a great team and it’s going to be a great matchup of Original Six [teams].’’
As much as Detroit presents a challenge, Bergeron feels confident in the Bruins’ talent and experience.
“We’ve been pretty consistent throughout the season but also especially down the stretch and we have to obviously carry that through the playoffs,’’ said Bergeron. “It’s been a fun year for us. It’s going to be a tough series and we have to approach it a game at a time and we’re looking forward to playing the Red Wings.’’
More often that not, first-round series are long and arduous. Over the course of the last three seasons, the Bruins have gone to seven games against the Canadiens, Capitals, and Maple Leafs.
As No. 8 seeds go, few are more challenging than Detroit.
“It shows the parity in the league,’’ said Bergeron. “There have been some tough matchups sometimes. They’re good to have early and you start to get on a roll after that. Definitely we need to have a good start and we need to make sure we start out of the gates a little stronger and we know this year it’s going to be no different.’’
Bergeron had a front-row seat to Detroit coach Mike Babcock in Sochi during his time playing for Team Canada. Bruins coach Claude Julien was also on the staff.
Bergeron said he learned a lot during that time and general manager Peter Chiarelli said Bergeron has found another gear since coming back from Russia and that he’s the best player he’s ever been.
“It helped me,’’ Bergeron said of the Games, in which he help lead Canada to the gold medal. “Even last time it helped me in 2010. It always helps you when you play with such great players and on a big stage like that. You just learn and you get better. Same thing with this year. I got back and I felt like the speed of the game was so fast over there that it helped me coming back here. It helped me with my confidence with the way the things went [over] there. I think that’s a fair assessment from Peter.’’
It certainly has helped that Brad Marchand has found his game in the last little while.
“I think he really has picked up his game,’’ said Bergeron. “When he’s on, he’s so easy to play with and makes things happen on the ice. He makes my job a lot easier.’’
Bergeron, 28 and in his 10th season, is part of a core group of veterans leading the way for the Bruins.
“It’s something we’ve had for quite a while now,’’ said Bergeron, who this season reached the 30-goal milestone for the second time.
“We’ve won a [Stanley] Cup together, we went to the finals last year. We’ve learned [about] not getting too high and not getting too low. That’s really the big key, especially in the playoffs. You’ve got to stay on an even keel and just go about your business for that next game. That’s all you can really worry about. Things can change pretty quick. I think it’s nice to have that experience and you can rely on that.’’
Bergeron said he learned a lot from ex-linemate Mark Recchi and he feels similarly with Jarome Iginla.
In meetings, it is the experienced players who speak up.
“A guy like Iggy, obviously, you want to know what he thinks,’’ said Bergeron. “I don’t consider myself an old guy but I’ve been around for a while.’’
Bergeron said it also helps that Julien is very receptive to suggestions.
“It’s good to have a coach who is open-minded and who we can talk to,’’ he said. “I think it makes everything easy to be a tight group and also to adjust and to work on things and get better quick.’’