SOUTH BEND, Ind. — There was a lot for Bruce Cassidy to process while perched up at the podium at Notre Dame Stadium.
The question? What’s the moment that you’ll remember from this one for a long time?
Where does one begin?
On an afternoon in which the Bruins bested the Blackhawks, 4-2, at the Winter Classic, there were almost too many memories to count. Perhaps it was the quiet moments walking around Notre Dame Stadium before 76,126 spectators packed into the historic venue.
Maybe it was the chatting with players like Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, whom Cassidy coached while serving as an assistant on Chicago’s staff from 2004-06. Or perhaps it was Sean Kuraly’s go-ahead tally in the third stanza?
But through all of the pomp and circumstance that came with two nights in South Bend and 60 minutes of back-and-forth outdoor action, Cassidy harkened back to a short blip on the highlight reel — one lasting all of 28 seconds.
“That’s the part I’ll remember about the actual game,” Cassidy recalled. “That probably changed our fortunes.”
Fortunes can change in an instant during a game as frantic as hockey — something the B’s especially know all too well this season, especially on the man advantage. While Boston boasts plenty of firepower on the power play (27.1 percent success rate, 4th NHL), it has also relinquished eight shorthanded tallies — tied for the league lead with Pittsburgh.
David Kampf nearly made it nine shorthanded strikes against the B’s at 18:20 in the second period — poking a loose puck past David Pastrnak at the blue line and skating in unopposed on Tuukka Rask off of a breakaway.
Trailing on the scoreboard, 2-1, and about to squander a key stretch on the power play, Boston was going to need a key stop by Rask to keep the tilt from getting out of reach.
“It could be a two-goal swing,” Cassidy said. “Maybe Tuukka makes the save anyway, maybe we go down and score after that?”
But any contingency plans for a third-period rally went out in the door in short order — thanks to a charging Patrice Bergeron hauling himself back into the D zone.
18:26: Just six seconds after Kampf orchestrated a breakaway for himself with his poke check past Pastrnak, the Blackhawks forward suddenly found himself without much ammunition in the slot — with a timely stick lift by Bergeron knocking the puck away from Kampf and out of danger.
“I’m trying to get back right away and just catch up to the guy and make a defensive play,” Bergeron said. “Once he went on his backhand, I knew he was trying to go back on his forehand. So I was waiting for him to do that and just lift up his stick.”
Seconds after negating Kampf’s Grade-A look on net, Bergeron was back at his usual spot on the bumper of Boston’s power play — with Boston still wielding over a minute remaining on the man advantage.
[caption id="attachment_479082" align="aligncenter" width="1600"] (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)[/caption]
18:48: Hovering around the high slot, Bergeron was rewarded for his previous backcheck, receiving a juicy rebound after Pastrnak’s wrister was blocked by Brent Seabrook. Without hesitating, Bergeron flipped the biscuit home off the backhand, knocking it past Cam Ward to tie things up with 1:12 to go in the period.
It was a remarkable shift in momentum packed into just 28 seconds of ice time, but Bergeron’s 200-foot showcase came as little surprise to the rest of his teammates.
“That’s the biggest reason why I nickname him Selke,” Jake DeBrusk said. “Because he does stuff like that, and you don’t really see very many guys do that. I was actually really lucky, I dodged the puck. I thought it was going to get me in the face. .... Would have took it off the face, I mean. But he deserved it. He works so hard to get the puck back and then the next thing you know, he gets rewarded. That’s just how Bergy is.”
“What a stick,” Pastrnak added. “That’s why he’s always in the nominations for all those trophies. … He’s a world-class player, and his stick is unreal.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2019
This isn’t even the first time this season that Bergeron has orchestrated a goal out of a play down the other end of the ice.
Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 30, Bergeron broke up a scoring bid by Warren Foegele, pick-pocketing the winger and immediately whipping the puck 200 feet down the sheet — setting up Brad Marchand for a wrister goal.
Bergy the defense.
Marchy the offense. pic.twitter.com/0C0PFILnLF
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 31, 2018
“That’s going to go down as how he’s remembered,” Kuraly said. “A hard-working guy, and it seems like he feeds off of his good defensive play. Once he makes a good defensive play, he’s on the prowl to make a good offensive play. I think it’s crazy to look at how many times he goes from there, 200 feet, and it’s not easy to go back and forth.”
At times, it can be easy to overlook Bergeron’s contributions, at least off of a quick glance on the stat sheet. But again, this is the same skater who didn’t relinquish a 5v5 goal in over 220 minutes of TOI last year when paired with Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
And he’s the same player, who, in the span of just 28 seconds, can change the trajectory of an entire game.
Patrice Bergeron wraps up a question on his backcheck that prevented a Chicago shorthanded goal.
Tuukka Rask chimes in: “Selke, Selke.” pic.twitter.com/m4rr8g2r2z
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 1, 2019
"I expect him to make game-changing plays,” Cassidy said. “That’s just who he is. … He just has it in him, he never quits. And that’s why he’s Patrice Bergeron.”