Philadelphia Flyers Tattoos
Bill Jezior, Philadelphia, Pa.
Philadelphia Flyers Tattoos
Bill Jezior, Philadelphia, Pa.
Respected by veterans, adored by young players, worshipped by nerds, Patrice Bergeron might be the best defensive forward in NHL history.
Imagine taking the ice with two linemates. One is the guy you play with every day, your longtime friend, someone you know inside and out. The other is the greatest player of the past decade. It’s safe to say the first guy would have to do something spectacular to stand out more than the second.
Yet that’s what happened when Brad Marchand played with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh Sept. 14 for a World Cup exhibition match between Canada and Russia. Halfway through the first period, Crosby threaded a pass to Bergeron, who darted between Dmitry Orlov and Artem Anisimov, dangled and roofed a laser of a backhand over Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder. Marchand had the privilege of playing on Sidney Friggin’ Crosby’s wing, but it was Bergeron dropping Marchand’s jaw.
“I was in awe,” Marchand said. “He was on another level, and I said that to him. He was like a man among boys. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play.”
Also enjoying the show that night was Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose Team Finland wasn’t even playing. When THN caught up with him at World Cup media day 24 hours later and brought up Bergeron, the first thing Rask asked was, “Did you see the goal he scored last night?”
Reactions like that are what make Bergeron unique. He may not be one of the NHL’s fan-favorite players, a la P.K. Subban, but Bergeron’s the fan favorite among the players. They look up to him. Even future Hall of Famers, talk him up like he’s James Bond. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara points out how good-looking Bergeron is. Rask calls him “a cool dude.” Pretty much every player points out how stylish he is. “He’s doesn’t force it,” Marchand said. “It’s just kind of a natural thing for him. He’s awesome. He’s French, so he knows how to dress. He’s got the cool car, nice house. He knows where to put his money and where not to, and he makes everything look good.”
That worship traces all the way back to Bergeron’s days as a teenage elder statesman at the 2005 World Junior Championship, when Canada fielded its greatest team in tournament history, featuring everyone from Crosby to Ryan Getzlaf to Shea Weber to Jeff Carter. Bergeron had already spent a season as the NHL’s youngest player but got an unexpected opportunity to suit up for the Canadian kids because of the 2004-05 lockout. His peers admired him for his professional demeanor, his two-way play and, yes, his style.
“I probably asked him about a thousand questions,” Crosby said. “He was great about it, and we’ve been friends ever since. I have a lot of respect for him, putting up with all my questions at a young age.”
At the NHL level back then, Bergeron was still the student, not the teacher. He credits Martin Lapointe, a rugged veteran winger with the Bruins, as the man who taught him how to be a pro. More than a decade later, though, it’s like Bergeron is back in the world junior dressing room. Fellow veterans respect him as a teammate and an opponent, and the young kids follow him around like he’s hockey’s Pied Piper. Bruins right winger David Pastrnak, 20, calls Bergeron “the best leader I’ve ever seen.” Buffalo Sabres center and Massachusetts native Jack Eichel, 19, trained with Bergeron for several weeks over the summer and relished the chance to be a sponge.
“A young guy like myself can learn a lot just from being around him,” Eichel said. “Hearing him talk, the way he carries himself, how hard he works. He’s on the ice after practice in August, bagging himself. It says a lot.”
It seems busting his tail doing all things hockey is all Bergeron thinks about. This is a man, don’t forget, who played through a broken rib, torn cartilage and a separated shoulder in the 2013 Stanley Cup final. He’s a fanatic of the sport, and not just because he’s an NHLer. His favorite off-season hobby is, uh, hockey. For years, he had an outdoor rink with an artificial ice surface on his property in Quebec City, Que., and hosted tournaments every weekend. He sold that house but still enjoys playing ball hockey with his buddies throughout the summer, albeit not this year with the Word Cup in the way. He has a designated shooting area at his new place, too.
The idol isn’t a role Bergeron asked for. As Pastrnak points out, Bergeron leads more by example than with a megaphone. But he’s still happy to pay forward what he learned from Lapointe.
“I try to be of any help, really,” Bergeron said. “I try to be there for them off the ice, to show my experience and tell them about things I used to do and that I’ve learned over the years. And it’s about on-ice stuff as well. I also don’t want to overdo it. They have to find and learn some stuff on their own. But at the same time I’m always there for them. It’s something I want to give back.”
The best way Bergeron does that is with his play, which is like one never-ending instructional video. “He's good in every area,” Crosby said. “He's reliable at both ends of the ice. He's got really good hockey sense. That’s what sticks out the most. Defensively he's tough to go up against, and offensively he can hurt you, so he's really an all-around player.”
That all-around ability has helped Bergeron win three Selke Trophies as the NHL’s best defensive forward. It’s helped him earn major roles and gold medals on two Canadian Olympic teams. It’s helped him win a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Bruins. It’s garnered the adoration of the NHL’s player population. Bergeron has never been a sexy name among the fans, however, rarely if ever mentioned in the same breath as Crosby or Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane. That’s likely because he sacrifices some offense to play a 200-foot game. The only stat categories he regularly dominates are faceoff percentage and plus-minus. He’s never topped 32 goals or 73 points. Marchand said Bergeron could easily be a 40-goal, 80-point player if he concentrated on offense more.
The way fans interpret the game is changing, though. We live in the advanced stats era now. Players who generate and suppress shot attempts at elite levels, also known as possession drivers, are gaining new levels of notoriety, especially when the analytics crowd is a vocal minority, proficient with social media. Our resident fancy stats writer, Dominik Luszczyszyn, said Bergeron “is basically God to the nerds.” Analytics website corsica.hockey tracks possession numbers dating back to 2007-08 and, over that nine-season span, Bergeron ranks top-five in Corsi percentage among forwards with 3,000 or more minutes. Factoring in Corsi relative to teammates, Bergeron cracks the top four. He’s the only player to rank top-four in both categories. He’s neck and neck with Pavel Datsyuk for the unofficial title of the greatest possession player since people started tracking the stats.
“Things generally tend to go very well whenever Bergeron is playing, and that applies to when he’s off the bench versus when he’s on the bench, or when his teammates are playing on a line with him or when they’re not on a line with him,” said corsica.hockey creator Emmanuel Perry. “Everything just seems to go when Bergeron is playing. That can be faulty logic if you’re looking at a few games or just one season, but when you sustain that sort of impact over your entire career, the way Bergeron has, and also when you break free from the pack and distance yourself that much, it’s very evident that he’s what makes things go.
Few players in NHL history have rivalled Bergeron’s ability to drive possession, actually. There’s a case to be made he’s the greatest defensive forward ever. Bergeron’s three Selkes tie him with Datsyuk, Guy Carbonneau and Jere Lehtinen for second-most all-time. Carbonneau won his third Selke at 32, Datsyuk at 31 and Lehtinen at 29. Bergeron won his third at 29, and he’s 31 now, fresh off a second-place finish in the 2016 vote. When asked if he knew who holds the Selke record, Bergeron nodded. He has Bob Gainey, the man with four Selkes, on the mind. Gainey is widely regarded as the gold standard for defensive forwards, but how would he compare to Bergeron if we applied modern statistics? There was no Corsi or Fenwick in Gainey’s era, which spanned from 1973-74 to 1988-89. The best we can do is evaluate him using hockey-reference.com’s defensive point shares. The formula is downright headache-inducing to laypeople like us, so here’s a simplified version: it factors in a player’s position, the league goals-per-game rate of his era and his plus-minus cross-referenced with a team’s goals for and against to create an approximation of defensive impact. “Point shares” refer to how many points in the standings the player was responsible for. Gainey gained 18.1 over 16 seasons for an average of 1.13. Bergeron has gained 21.2 in 12 seasons for an average of 1.77.
Bergeron thus measures up quite nicely to Gainey, who is, of course, in the Hall of Fame. Bergeron only has the one Stanley Cup to Gainey’s five, but Gainey played on one of the greatest dynasties in sports history with the late ’70s Canadiens. Bergeron has the Olympic resume and is a better offensive player than Gainey ever was. His body of work is starting to look Hall-worthy, and he has plenty of good years left. Hockey researcher and history Iain Fyffe has developed ‘The Inductinator,’ a system that predicts Hall of Fame berths, and he believes Bergeron must catch Gainey in Selkes to have a shot.
“Just to be in the mix of that, in the talk, is a huge honor for me,” Bergeron said. “Bob Gainey is a legend of the game. We’ll see what happens. There are some amazing two-way forwards that are always there and giving me competition. I’m trying to play my game and see what unfolds.”
Capitals right winger Tom Wilson talks about his first big purchase and who his favorite player growing up was.
What was your welcome to the NHL moment?
“My first NHL game was in the playoffs. I got called up from junior to Hershey, then called up from Hershey to Washington. I was in the coach’s office, and they told me you’re playing tomorrow night against New York for Game 5 (in 2013). Before the game I was standing in the hallway and a couple guys said ‘Hey, it’s the same sport, don’t overthink it.’ You could hear the crowd from the tunnel, it was a pretty crazy experience.”
Who was your favorite player growing up?
“I was a Leafs fan when I was really young, so a guy like Mats Sundin…I had a Darcy Tucker jersey. Steve Yzerman, too.”
What's the best thing about being an NHLer?
“Coming to the rink every day and being with the guys. It’s so fun in Washington. Last year, we were winning and it’s a great group of guys, so it’s a blast.”
What's your favorite road city?
“California is always fun when you go out with the boys. You get to go to L.A. and San Jose, you stay on the beach – that’s definitely a frontrunner.”
What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?
“When the timing is right, you got to give it your all. Getting into the league as such a young player, I realized that when you have your chance you have to make the most of it. You play under-17s, everyone’s watching. Then you go to an under-18 tournament and all the scouts are there. You can’t take one off because you can get your name crossed off pretty quick. So go out and give it your all. You can’t take any games off, because it could come back to bite you.”
What was your first big purchase?
“A Jeep SRT. That was pretty cool, buying my own car.”
Other teams may be dealing with a banged up player or two, but lower-body injuries to both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff have the Kings facing a serious obstacle in the early season.
At least for the time being, the Los Angeles Kings appeared to be willing to be patient with their goaltending situation regardless of the long-term injury suffered by starting netminder Jonathan Quick, and the hope was that backup Jeff Zatkoff would be able to get the job done in the interim.
That may no longer be the case, though, and not because the Kings don’t have faith in Zatkoff’s ability.
During practice Saturday, Zatkoff, 29, appeared to injure his leg and needed to be helped off the ice by teammates, and the Kings announced shortly after practice that Zatkoff has indeed suffered a lower-body injury. According to the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman, Zatkoff is doubtful for Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks and it sounds as though Jack Campbell will be called up from the AHL’s Ontario Reign to replace Zatkoff in the lineup.
While it’s still early and there’s no timeline for a possible return for Zatkoff, that there’s even a chance he could be out long-term makes this a potential worst-case scenario for the Kings.
If Zatkoff is out long-term, the most likely scenario sees Peter Budaj take the reins in goal, but the 34-year-old isn’t a long-term solution for the Kings. Despite picking up a victory in his first full game of the season, Budaj has a 2.22 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 80 minutes of work this season. For his career, his numbers are much the same, as he boasts a 2.76 GAA and .903 SP across 300 games.
It was bad enough that Quick had found himself on the injured list, but given Los Angeles’ cap situation, losing Zatkoff puts the Kings in an incredibly difficult spot.
As of Saturday, the Kings have little more than $1.6 million in available cap space, and that’s nowhere near enough for the club to land one of the potential starting goaltenders who could be made available by trade.
For instance, the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard or Jets’ Ondrej Pavelec would both be far too expensive, and the cost of landing a backup with long-term starting potential, say someone like the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss or Bruins’ Anton Khudobin, is still enough that it puts the Kings right up against the salary cap.
Realistically, the only way for the Kings to acquire a legitimate backup goaltender with starting potential, which is to say a goaltender who can fill in for Quick and Zatkoff, will be if Los Angeles ships out salary in making any acquisition. The trouble then for the Kings is deciding which pieces are expendable, and that’s not going to be an easy decision.
That said, Kings GM Dean Lombardi might have his decision made for him if it turns out Zatkoff is out long-term and Budaj can’t hold the fort. No Quick was one thing, but no Zatkoff makes the situation dire. It’s still early in the season, but losing precious points now can hurt Los Angeles in the long run. If Lombardi doesn’t — or can’t — make a move to shore up his goaltending, it could be too late by the time Quick is ready to make his return.
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Dale Weise could be hit with the second suspension of his career after delivering a shoulder to the head of Korbinian Holzer during Thursday’s game between the Flyers and Ducks.
Dale Weise was Philadelphia’s main off-season signing, but it appears the most memorable act of his first four games in a Flyers uniform is going to be a suspension for a hit dished out to Anaheim Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer.
Weise’s hit came during the second period of Thursday’s game between the Flyers and the Ducks as a Philadelphia power play ended. As Holzer attempted to move the puck up ice, he was met by Weise, who drilled the Ducks rearguard with a high hit that drove Holzer’s visor into his nose and bloodied him.
In real time, the hit didn’t look like much, but the replay of the blow shows Weise seemingly load up his legs and launch into the hit. Weise’s back skate comes off the ice before contact with Holzer is made, and the Flyers winger is airborne as the check is completed:
No penalty was called on the play at the time of the hit and, in fact, the Flyers were the team to get a power play as a result of Weise’s hit. Moments after he dropped Holzer, Ryan Getzlaf got his stick in Weise’s skates and was whistled for tripping.
Just because no call was made on Weise, though, doesn’t mean the Department of Player Safety wasn’t going to take a look, and the league announced Friday morning that Weise will have a hearing for an illegal check to the head on Holzer.
That Weise is set to have a hearing likely means a ban of at least one game is headed his way, especially with what can be seen when the play is slowed down. Weise’s launching into the hit is one thing and probably would have been let go had this been a shoulder to shoulder blow, but that Weise’s shoulder makes contact with nothing but Holzer’s head is likely what will make the hit a suspendable offense.
When it comes to suspension length, that Holzer was able to remain in the game and doesn’t appear to have suffered any injury beyond the facial laceration will work in Weise’s favor, but Weise’s history — albeit short — with the Department of Player Safety could see him sitting for a few games.
Weise was suspended for three preseason games ahead of the 2013-14 season while a member of the Vancouver Canucks. During an exhibition tilt between the Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, Weise delivered a shoulder to the head of Taylor Hall, and that hit resulted in the three-game ban.
UPDATE: Weise has been suspended three games for his hit on Holzer, a ban which will cost him $39,166.68, all of which will go the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. In the suspension video, Patrick Burke, the NHL's director of Player Safety, said that Holzer was eligible to be checked on the play, but it was the unnecessary extension up and into the head by Weise that made the hit worthy of a suspension.
"Rather than stay low and hitting squarely through his opponent's body, Weise extends his body unnecessarily upward and makes Holzer's head the main point of contact," Burke explained. "And while Holzer does attempt to slow down as Weise approaches, he does not materially change the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact."
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