While the 2016 World Cup of Hockey was an abject disaster for the United States (0-3-0 record), it has been the exact opposite for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and coach Claude Julien of Team Canada and Zdeno Chara of Team Europe, meaning that when the upcoming best-of-three Final Round is completed, the Boston Bruins will welcome home at least one champion from Toronto, where the WCH is taking place.
One would be remiss to not mention former Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who appears to be fully recovered from knee and back injuries that slowed him down a bit last season. The rearguard has had no trouble playing at the pace of a world class tournament and has been paired with Chara on Team Europe.
Chara, the Bruins veteran defenseman, and team captain has been a stalwart on the blueline for the Europeans while serving as an alternate captain. He has relied on his 18 years of NHL experience combined with three Olympic Games (2006, 2010, 2014), seven World Championships (1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012), and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey to show that, even at 39 years of age, he is still one of the world’s top defenders.
Chara, who hails from Trencin, Slovakia, has scored one goal and is a plus/minus-0, as he prepares to lead his team into the Final against Canada.
When it was announced that the World Cup of Hockey was making a comeback, there was never any doubt that Patrice Bergeron would be a member of Team Canada. The 31-year-old native of Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, is known for his defensive prowess to which his three Selke Trophies (2012, 2014, 2015) will attest. Bergeron has quite the offensive touch as well. He has amassed a total of 618 points on 238 goals and 380 assists in 820 career National Hockey League games and you will not find a player who pays more attention to all of the details and nuances of the game. Every season, he routinely finishes at, or near, the top of the League in faceoffs wins with 60+ percent. He has also won one Stanley Cup (2011).
This World Cup of Hockey is not Bergeron’s first experience in international play. He has represented his country six times (2004 and 2006 World Championships, 2005 World Junior Championships, 2010 and 2014 Olympics, 2012 Spengler Cup) and has won five gold medals. Patrice Bergeron is a winner and was a no-brainer of a selection to the Canadian team.
A player who, perhaps, was not seen as a no-brainer for selection to Team Canada was Bergeron’s left winger in Boston, Brad Marchand.
Marchand, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, finished fifth in the NHL with 37 goals last season and although he had won gold with the Maple Leaf on his chest in two World Junior Championships (2007, 2008), it was his performance (4 goals, 3 assists, 1 gold medal) at the 2016 World Championships that solidified his spot on Canada’s WCH roster.
The two Bruins linemates have played key roles for Canada as wingers on the team’s top unit with center Sidney Crosby.
In four games, Crosby leads the tournament in scoring with 7 points on 3 goals and 4 assists. He is a plus-7.
Marchand is second to Crosby in World Cup of Hockey scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists totaling 5 points. He is a plus-3.
Bergeron is fourth in WCH scoring. He has registered 4 points on 2 goals and 2 assists. As is customary, Bergeron is also on the plus side of the ledger with a plus-3. The Bruins center leads Canada with 20 shots on goal.
The trio has paced Canada to the tournament Final round with a combined 8 goals and 8 assists totaling 16 points. The line goes into the Final with a plus-13.
Coach Claude Julien’s role has been just as important to Canada’s success.
“Keep things loose,” Julien explained when he returned to Boston for the Bruins’ first day of training camp. “And, obviously, they got me doing the penalty kill, which is the same thing I did at the (Sochi) Olympics. On the bench, I’m the guy that gives Mike Babcock feedback. I’m also the guy he bounces things on and asks me for my opinion. So, that’s why I’m next to him all the time. I’ve got the earpiece and I kind of work closely with him.”
Julien has believed all along that Bergeron and Marchand are the right players to play with Crosby.
“I didn’t have to push for any of that, to be honest with you,” Julien said. “This is basically on merit. One of the reasons is Sid (Sidney Crosby) and obviously, Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) have played together before (in international competition). I think, at the same time, when you look at Bergy and Marchy (Brad Marchand), they’re pretty good together as a pair. So, it just seemed to be the right fit to start with, and it just worked out. We weren’t necessarily thinking like, that’s the line that’s going to stay that way. They certainly had to prove they were a good line and they did that. But, our two guys (Bergeron and Marchand) have, no doubt, have been dialed in from day one, and to me, have been tremendous players for our hockey club (Canada).”
Bergeron, Marchand, Crosby, and their teammates need to be dialed in for two more wins but Team Europe, which is comprised of NHL players from eight different countries, was not expected to win a game let alone reach the Final has come together and is playing inspired hockey.
The odds favor Canada but either way, Boston will celebrate a World Cup of Hockey champion when the tournament concludes after the best-of-three Final round.
Game 1 of the Final is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27, at 8:00 pm ET (ESPN, CBC, TVAS).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.