WILMINGTON, Mass. (AP) — For Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, the 2014 Olympics were about more than winning a second gold medal with Canada.
The Sochi Games were a confidence boost that he harnessed when he returned to perhaps the best of his 10 NHL seasons.
The top-seeded Bruins need Bergeron to maintain his outstanding play when they face the eighth-seeded Detroit Red Wings in their first-round playoff series beginning Friday night.
"It's the best I've seen him, period," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "He started maybe as the 13th forward over there in Sochi, and everyone saw what he can do, and he was basically on the top line at the end.
"It helped his pace. It helped his tempo, and you know you see him shoot the puck better this year. He's had a terrific year. And, of course, the whole two-way component of his game is so good. It's always good. It's not by accident you hear his name in the Hart Trophy conversation. That doesn't surprise me at all."
While it's a long shot that Bergeron will even be among the finalists for MVP this season, he is a favorite to win the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward for the second time.
His plus-38 was a career-best, and he finished third in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 58.6. Without losing any of his defensive reliability, Bergeron also became an offensive force. His 30 goals tied Jarome Iginla for the team lead and marked the second time he reached that level in his career. He scored 31 goals in 2005-06 but was only a plus-3 that season.
Bergeron agreed that the Olympics gave him more faith in his ability to add offensive punch to his high-caliber defensive game.
"I think it helped. Even last time it helped me in 2010 (at the Vancouver Olympics)," he said Wednesday. "I think it always helps you when you play with such great players and on a big stage like that.