Claude Julien called coaching a gold medal-winning Canada team in the Olympics “a once in a lifetime kind of thing” upon returning to Bruins practice Tuesday, but he seemed just as happy for Patrice Bergeron as he was for himself.
Julien, who was an associate coach under head coach Mike Babcock, said he found it very satisfying to see Bergeron — a player who has won gold at both the World Championships and World Junior Championships, win the Stanley Cup and added his second gold medal over the weekend — cement his standing as one of the world’s best players, even if he often gets overlooked because he doesn’t put up as many points as others.
“He’s such a complete player, and it’s nice to see that he was seen the same way on a bigger stage,” Julien said. “Now there’s no doubt in my mind that everybody knows how good he is.”
It didn’t take long for Bergeron, who began as the team’s fourth-line right wing on a line with Jamie Benn and John Tavares, to establish himself as a difference-maker on a loaded roster. With Norway playing Canada in a much closer game than anyone could have expected early on, Bergeron assisted goals from Shea Weber and Jamie Benn in a 3-1 win, the latter of which was the result of a beautiful pass from Bergeron in the offensive zone.
As the tournament went on, Bergeron moved up to play with Sidney Crosby and he proved to be a big asset in keeping the team’s semifinal game against Team USA a 1-0 contest.
“He was one of our best players and I’m not afraid to say that,” Julien said of Bergeron’s performance. “He came in and his line in that first game, with Benn and Tavares, was probably our best line. He was playing so well, he ended up moving up to the Crosby line and basically brought some good stability to that line and they were much better from then on.
“He made a lot of highlight clips in our reviews just by how hard he worked on both sides of the coin. Defensively, offensively, he made some great things. Forecheck, turn pucks over, backcheck.”
Bergeron used the stage provided by the team’s 2011 Stanley Cup to show anyone unsure of his abilities that he is among the game’s best players. In addition to being the best faceoff man in the world, his two-way play was impressive enough to make the Pro Hockey Writers Association realize that he was overdue for the Selke Trophy, which he was given the next season.
Bergeron will never be one the two or three biggest names in the league because though he plays the sport as well as anyone else, his two-way prowess isn’t as sexy as putting up a ton of goals or points, a la a Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos.
Still, Julien says, there’s no confusion when it comes to big-name players that Bergeron is one of the best players in the game today.
“He’s not Crosby and he’s not those kind of guys in peoples’ minds, but when the puck is dropped — and you can even ask Sid — Sid loves playing with him,” Julien said. “They played together in World and Junior championships. They’ve been linemates and he just loves playing with him. He’s got a great appreciation for Bergy.”