Eventually, they might rename it the Patrice Bergeron Award.
Another year, another Selke Trophy nomination for the longtime Bruins center, who was one of three finalists voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and announced by the NHL Monday.
The winner of the Selke, which recognizes the best defensive forward in the league, will be revealed during the conference finals.
Philadelphia center Sean Couturier and St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly are the other two finalists. It’s wait ‘til next year for young bucks such as Anthony Cirelli of Tampa Bay, who by some advanced metrics was the most effective defensive forward in the league.
No contender has a reputation as golden as Bergeron’s. He was named a finalist for the ninth year in a row, extending his own NHL record. Pavel Datsyuk, Jere Lehtinen, and Guy Carbonneau were six-time finalists, and only Datsyuk earned all of his nods in consecutive years.
“It’s always a great recognition,” said Bergeron, who admired Carbonneau, the former Canadien, while growing up in Quebec City. “You also have to keep in mind it is a team sport. I wouldn’t be here without the help of my teammates. It’s the same thing every year.”
If Bergeron were to win this season, he would set a record with five Selkes. He is currently one of two four-time winners. Montreal’s Bob Gainey took home the first four Selkes that were awarded, from 1978-81.
Bergeron owns the Corsi era, in which defensive play is studied in much greater detail than even Datsyuk’s time. Hand-held, high-definition video is available on the bench during play, and analytics go far beyond plus/minus and faceoff percentage.
Bergeron was ninth among forwards this season with a plus-23, and his 57.9 percent success at the dot led all centers with more than 1,000 drops taken.
No first-line center in the league was on the ice for fewer goals against (27). Among forwards who played 700 minutes, Bergeron had the fifth-best expected goals against rate (22.86), meaning the Bruins gave up very few good shots when he was on the ice.
If you’re a regular Bruins watcher, you have long known this to be true.
While contributing plenty of offense (31-25—56 in 61 games this season), Bergeron is a maestro between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, lifting sticks, blocking passes, and sealing walls so his high-octane linemates stay on the attack. He is rarely out of position, turning the wrong way, or caught with his stick in the wrong spot.
The Bruins led the league in goals against (2.39 per game) and, with Bergeron as the third most-used forward on the penalty kill, ranked third in the league there (84.3 percent).
Bergeron, who turns 35 Friday, keeps rising above. Any promising young player is told he can’t make it to the NHL without being able to defend. Bergeron said his coach in junior, Real Paiement of Acadie-Bathurst in the Quebec Major Junior League, was the first to drill home that message.
“Even now, I’m still trying to learn and better my game,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”