NASHVILLE — Patrice Bergeron stumbles with the question. He doesn’t exactly know how to answer, what to say, how to project his game into the eyes of those around him. He’s simply not quite sure. He hopes that they see the two-way play and the effort, noting that he has gotten more recognition of late. But that is all he can say.
Everyone else? They don’t hesitate. They have more than enough words.
“I think the one thing you notice with Bergy, just the guy doesn’t make a mistake,” said the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene, who played with Bergeron at the Olympics and at the Spengler Cup for Team Canada. “I think he’s as close to the perfect hockey player as you could ever find.”
Oh. Perfect, huh?
“Especially this year, too, his numbers are real high this year, he’s producing a lot offensively — and that’s not even really regarded as the best part of his game,” Duchene said. “It’s just his all-around game, his faceoffs, his offensive ability, obviously his defensive ability.
“Like I said, the guy doesn’t make mistakes. He’s a pretty impressive player.”
There seems to be a pattern. The closer a player gets to Bergeron — as a teammate, as a linemate — the more effusive he becomes. It’s easier to notice everything that way, to see what Bergeron has to offer and where his true strengths lie.
And, as the years go by, Bergeron has gotten more recognition as well, winning the Selke Trophy in three of the last four years and being voted an All-Star in each of the last two, including for the Atlantic Division in Sunday’s game.
“When I played with him at the Olympics and we were on a line for a couple games together, I never played with anyone that makes the game so easy for you,” Islanders center John Tavares said. “He’s just always in the right spot, he always puts the puck in the right spot, he always seems to be the guy back defensively breaking up a play, getting you the puck in good spots, turning up the ice.
“He just makes the game so easy for you as a teammate and as a linemate. He is really a special player.”
And if someone isn’t aware of that, he finds out quickly when he plays with Bergeron.
“He’s probably one of the most complete players in the league,” said Florida goalie Roberto Luongo, who allowed two goals (including the winner) to Bergeron in the Bruins’ 4-0 win in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and who has been his teammate with Team Canada. “He’s so smart. Not only is he good offensively, but he does so many little things that people don’t see as far as D zone or faceoffs or just little intangibles, as far as being in the right place with the puck. All these things that people don’t really notice.
“But when you’re in the game and you play with a guy like that, you really appreciate it more.”
There are parts of Bergeron’s game that are obvious. He has, after all, won all those Selkes. But he has been equally impressive on the offensive end this season, and especially on one of the league’s best power plays. With 19 goals in 49 games, he’s on pace to challenge his career high of 31 in 2005-06.
“What he does at both ends of the rink, playing against the top line each and every night and still putting up the points that he’s putting up, that’s pretty incredible,” said Corey Perry, whose Ducks played the Bruins on Tuesday, and who has also been a Team Canada teammate. “When you’re trying to shut down the opposition’s No. 1 center and you’re scoring the goals, it’s pretty remarkable.”
And, clearly, it has led to good results. As multiple All-Stars pointed out, Bergeron has won and won and won. He has a Stanley Cup title, has been to another Final, has two Olympic gold medals (from 2010 and 2014), and more gold from the World Championships, making him one of just 26 members — including nine Canadians — of the triple gold club.
“Obviously he’s one of the more respected players around the league,” said Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who had not met Bergeron until this past week, as Atlantic Division teammates. “It seems like he’s won everything. So it’s a good thing he’s on our team this weekend. Maybe we can add this to his list.”
So he’s good, sure. But perfect? That’s a lot of pressure to put on a fellow hockey player.
“Well, I mean, there’s not that many of them out there,” Duchene said. “I think if you asked most guys in the league if there was a perfect player out there, who would it be? I think most guys would say him.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.