BostonBruins.com - With Team Canada's first game against Norway on tap Thursday in Sochi, Patrice Bergeron was prepared for a different role than what he's used to in Black & Gold.
"I think so far it's more defensive, penalty kill, and I'm playing the wing right now, so we'll see what happens," Bergeron had said, of his projected role on a deep Canadian team.
"Obviously I'm willing to do whatever that they want me to do. They obviously want me to play my game, and once I'm called for the time to go on the ice, it's time to do the job and play to my fullest."
Relied on heavily in Boston's top-six as a two-way center who leads the NHL in overall faceoff winning percentage since 2011-12, being on an offensively loaded team like Canada has meant a fourth line role for Bergeron.
But that didn't halt any production from the forward on Thursday, as Canada opened the Olympics with a 3-1 win over Norway. Bergeron provided two assists in the victory, including the primary assist on the game-winner. With the two points, he surpassed his Olympic total through seven games (one assist) from Vancouver in 2010.
"Well, whatever it takes, right?" Bergeron told NBC Olympics' Pierre McGuire following the game, live on USA Network. "Just happy to be here and try to chip in any way I can, and you know, if it's the right side or the left side, it doesn't matter for me."
He mostly played on the right wing with John Tavares at center and Jamie Benn on the left side. With Marty St. Louis as the "13th forward" heading into the matchup, Bergeron also saw playing time with the veteran winger, as those "bottom four" were rolled out for shifts, forechecking hard and crashing the net.
Like most of the teams on Day 1, it took Canada until the second period to really find their offensive game and become in sync.
But it appeared that the Benn-Tavares-Bergeron trio was ready to go. They established a strong forecheck, and kept the puck down low. At about the midpoint of the first, Bergeron and Tavares combined for a give-and-go with Tavares nearly putting it home.
"Yeah it's just great players, you know, it's two players who are creating a lot of chances off of their forecheck but also off of their vision," Bergeron told McGuire, of his linemates. "And I'm just trying to get open for that, and also obviously have that high-grade shot."
While my attention was naturally focused on the lone Bruin hopping over the boards, Bergeron made it easy to notice him on the ice, providing relentless pressure of his own.
He nearly tipped a Tavares drive early in the second period. Three minutes later, Benn drew a delayed penalty on a wraparound attempt, with Bergeron cycling up top, collecting the puck and ultimately assisting on Shea Weber's blast to put Canada up, 1-0. Bergeron's roommate in Sochi, Duncan Keith, picked up the other assist on the tally.
With about 11 minutes left in the second, Bergeron again nearly capitalized on a chance created by Tavares.
It didn't matter, though, because later in the period, the Bruin sent a perfect no-look pass from the outside of the right circle cross-ice to open space for Benn, who easily pulled the trigger to give Canada a two-goal lead.
"I think it's to be expected a bit, we're trying to get to know one another on the ice and get to know each other chemistry-wise," Bergeron said, of the slower start for Canada, with no score in the first period. "But I thought we kept improving throughout the game and our second and third was a lot better, and [now] we've got to be even better [Friday against Austria]."
Norway would score just 22 seconds into the third, but Drew Doughty earned back the two-goal cushion for Canada just 1:25 later, en route to their 3-1 win.
Bergeron ended the game with 18 shifts for 10:59 in ice time, averaging 36 seconds per shift. He put up two shots and recorded a +2 rating.
Though he didn't play at center, he was relied upon for faceoffs during the penalty kill (which is the area of the game that Claude Julien has been tasked with in Sochi), going 75-percent on the dot.
Besides being sent to the box for an interference penalty late in the third, Bergeron saw time on all four of the other penalty killing missions. He ended up on the ice for Norway's lone goal, a power-play tally, but that came as a result of a broken play by goaltender Carey Price behind the goal.
Any Bruins fan would have been proud watching his tireless effort on the ice in the win, and his linemates certainly helped the cause. During one shift in the third period, the two-way, strong-on-puck play of Bergeron and St. Louis combined with Benn was a joy to watch.
"I think it's about being first on pucks, being hard to play against, you know, and having a lot of speed," Bergeron told NBC Olympics, of the team's identity. "I think speed's going to be key on that big ice and we can't have enough of that."
It looks as if his line chemistry, for now, easily formed. But Team Canada will be looking for their entire team to keep coming together.
"You're here, and you don't have that much time to gel as a team," Bergeron had told me, upon his arrival in Sochi. "But it's the team that's going to do that the quickest, that has the best chance."
Bergeron and Team Canada next face off against Austria on Friday, February 14, live on USA Network at noon ET.
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