If chosen an All-Star, Patrice Bergeron will play
Two high-mileage NHL stars in their early 30s, Washington sniper Alex Ovechkin and Montreal goalie Carey Price, will serve one-game suspensions after declining All-Star invites in favor of R&R.
Should Patrice Bergeron win the league’s inaugural “Last Man In” vote, which ended at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Boston will not miss Bergy. If chosen, he will serve — though he admitted this week he gladly would take the time off.
When asked before Thursday’s game against the Capitals if he’d rather lose the vote, Bergeron deferred.
“That’s not a good way to, I guess, to make a sales pitch, I guess, huh?” he said. “So, yeah, we’ll see what happens. If that’s what fans want, I guess I’ll be there. Otherwise I’ll appreciate their non-votes.”
Bergeron, who has played in two All-Star Games (2015 and 2016), clarified he meant no disrespect when he said in a radio interview earlier this week he might rather stay home.
“No, not really,” Bergeron said on 98.5 The Sports Hub when asked if he cares about being voted to the All-Star Game, Jan. 26 in San Jose. “I’ve got a newborn baby boy, so obviously that time off would be nice to be home.”
His wife, Stephanie, gave birth to their second son on Dec. 2. The couple also has Zach, born in 2015, and Victoria, born in 2017.
Bergeron, who missed 16 games with a rib injury earlier in the season, was one of eight candidates for the Atlantic team’s final spot.
Ovechkin, named captain of the Metropolitan Division, and Price each will serve a one-game suspension directly before or after the All-Star break (Jan. 25-26).
If he were in their shoes and declined, Bergeron said he would be fine with that arrangement.
“I think it’s fair. I think if you’re asked,” he said, “it should be something you’re proud of and there’s different reasons sometimes that makes you not be able to attend. And if those reasons don’t meet the requirements, I guess, I don’t mind that one-game suspension.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy understood why Ovechkin decided to sit — he’s an 11-time All-Star who played until June — and, obviously, he wouldn’t mind if Bergeron did, too.
“It’s tough for the fans,” Cassidy said. “I still think no matter what, there’s a lot of good replacements out there. Just look at the Atlantic alone, who’s not going that could be. It’s unbelievable.”
Boston’s penalty kill, embarrassed by a 2-for-6 success rate in the much-referenced 7-0 loss to the Capitals on Oct. 3, remains on fire despite tangling with Ovechkin, the NHL’s top sniper (32 goals in 43 games).
The Bruins had killed their last 17 man-down situations. Since Dec. 4 — a 5-0 loss at Florida in which they went 4 for 6 on the PK — they have surrendered four PPGs in 46 chances. The returns of Bergeron (Dec. 22) and Zdeno Chara (Dec. 27) from lengthy layoffs have only strengthened an aggressive, turnover-producing fully invested unit.
If Charlie McAvoy (foot infection) returns Saturday in Toronto, as anticipated, someone may have to sit. In his absence — he has missed 26 of the Bruins’ 43 contests — lower-in-the-order blue liners such as Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller, and John Moore have grown comfortable.
Though his pinches aren’t perfect, Moore’s size and speed are a solid play against most teams. Going forward, Miller could be tapped when Cassidy wants more beef, and Grzelcyk when he needs speed.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself because of the way things have gone this year,” Cassidy said. “I would just be very honest with whoever that player is. . . . It’ll be a bit of a longer conversation because it’s guys that have been in the lineup a little more frequently.
“Hopefully they’ll understand the reasonings, be upset, work hard to get back in there. When you do, play well enough so you don’t get taken out.”
In search of six
Boston, which failed in its attempt to earn its first six-game win streak since last Feb. 27-March 10, had scored the first goal in each of the last two games . . . Cassidy was 47-47-9 in two years as Capitals coach (2002-04), his first head gig in the NHL . . . Only one NHL team — Tampa Bay with eight — has lost fewer times in regulation than Washington (12) . . . The scoreless Brad Marchand-Bergeron-David Pastrnak top line was on the ice for three goals, the second time they’ve gone minus-3 as a line this season (Nov. 8, an 8-5 loss to Vancouver) . . . In his 991-game career, Bergeron has been minus-3 on 10 occasions . . . Washington netminder Braden Holtby improved to 16-2-0 lifetime against the Bruins . . . Urho Vaakanainen, fresh off his World Junior Championship crown with the Finns, rejoined AHL Providence.