RALEIGH, N.C. – Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford acquired Marc-Andre Bergeron from the Lightning for one major reason: to aid Carolina’s woeful power play. While the move was considered by many to be of little significance, it didn’t take long for the 10-year veteran to give his new team exactly what it needed.
The Trois-Rivieres, Que., native earned a PP assist against the Capitals on Tuesday and racked up several quality chances 5-on-4, igniting a Canes’ power play that converted just six of its first 60 opportunities on home ice. Carolina would go on to lose to Washington, 5-3, but Bergeron was one of few bright spots for a squad that now finds itself in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s what I’ve been known for throughout my career,” he said of his work on the man advantage. “We all have or weaknesses, we all have our strengths. I try to bring the strength I have to my teammates here.”
Bergeron’s first helper came on a Jiri Tlusty tally 14:07 into the first period. He kept the puck in the zone, made a subtle fake to open up space and dished it to Tlusty, who buried it. Here’s footage of the play:
“That’s what he does, he has the shot but he calms everything down,” Coach Muller said of Bergeron’s power play ability. “He’s smart enough to know when to shoot, when to make the plays. You need that quarterback back there to just make it run that much smoother for everyone else.
“He did a great job and obviously the results were there tonight. ”
A frequent healthy scratch in Tampa this season, Bergeron has been criticized by many for his defensive aptitude — but it’s hard to argue with the skill he brings to the power play. During 5-on-4 action he was smooth with the puck, maded crisp passes and brought a powerful shot for someone with a 5′ 9” frame.
While we’re on the topic of defense, though, I have to admit … Bergeron greatly exceeded my expectations in his own zone. He added some grit, maintained sound positioning and was able to work well as part of multiple pairings. I also noticed he did a good job protecting the crease, particularly near the posts to prevent wraparound opportunities.
When I told Bergeron I was impressed with his defensive play, he responded: “Yeah, you didn’t see that coming, did you?”
He added: “I’m 32 years old now, so you learn. Obviously I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and you work on all of them throughout your career. Defense comes with experience. You get smarter as you get older, your defense comes along with it. For me, it’s better than it used to be.”
While Bergeron looked good more often than not on Tuesday, he did have several minor lapses, including one that led to a Washington goal. Down 4-3 late in the second, he made an ill-advised pass in Eric Staal’s direction that was picked up by Marcus Johansson, which was eventually put into Carolina’s net by Joel Ward. Here’s the play:
“Bad pass,” Bergeron said. “It’s how good this league is, I guess. You miss a guy by six inches and it ends up in the back of your net. It killed me.”
Said Muller: “(That pass) just kind of missed by inches, and it goes the other way. Any time right now, we pay for any little mistake we do.”
If the Canes are going to have any shot at clawing their way into the playoffs this season, they’re going to need an effective power play. And if Bergeron can continue to perform the way he did in his Carolina debut, that may be possible.
“I just want to do everything I can to help,” he concluded. “And I think I can bring a lot to this locker room.”
I’ll have more thoughts and quotes from the game up here tomorrow afternoon, as well as any trade deadline news. We’ll be back in Raleigh on Thursday when the Lightning take on the Canes at PNC Arena.