By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
Patrice Bergeron is the Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward for a record-breaking fifth time.
The big question now is whether the Boston Bruins captain will go for a sixth.
Bergeron accepted the award Sunday in the aftermath of surgery for a tendon in his left elbow and still unsure whether he’ll return for a 19th season. He turns 37 in July.
“I still think I have a lot of time in front of me, I guess, to make that decision,” Bergeron said. “I want to make sure that I take all the time that I need to make the right one.”
Bergeron wouldn’t be calling it a career because of diminished performance. He is still on top of his game.
At 36, Bergeron led the league with 991 faceoff wins and a winning percentage of .619 and had the best puck possession numbers among players who skated at least 50 games. He put up 65 points in 73 games, trailing only longtime linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in scoring for the Bruins.
Not having a contract for next season is the primary rationale behind Bergeron’s indecision.
“My whole career I’ve had contract extensions or I’ve had long-term contracts,” he said. “I would head into the summers I guess with that in the back of my mind, meaning that I know what I’m doing next year and all that stuff. And now I’m 36 and I don’t have a contract and I can actually take a step back for the first time in my career, the first time in my life that I can just reflect on what I do want looking forward for the future.”
Bergeron winning the Selke for a fifth time broke a tie with Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey, who won the award in its first four years of existence. This was his 11th consecutive season as a finalist — the longest streak in league history, surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s 10-year run finishing in the top three in voting for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP from 1980-89.
“The 11th in a row, as a player I think you want to be a consistent player,” Bergeron said. “You want to be known as a consistent player, so, yeah, it is nice to be recognized that way.”
Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and Calgary’s Elias Lindholm were the other finalists as voted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Bergeron was a runaway winner with 160 of 195 first-place votes, with Lindholm second and Barkov third.
Bergeron likely has fewer years left playing hockey than Lindholm and Barkov, though next season could be a major task for the dedicated center who helped Boston win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and make the final in 2013 and ‘19. Marchand and top defenseman Charlie McAvoy are expected to miss at least the first couple of months after undergoing surgery, and others won’t be ready for opening night.
“I think it’s one of those things you have to ride the wave,” Bergeron said. “I guess it comes down to another challenge. This organization and this team have seen many challenges for the past whatever years — even decades.”
Bergeron has been a part of overcoming those challenges since making his NHL debut in 2003. He said the elbow surgery, which requires a 10 to 12-week recovery period, won’t affect his looming decision.
Playing through the injury for almost two years does make his latest accomplishment cementing his legacy as one of hockey’s best two-way players even more impressive. Naturally, Bergeron credits his teammates and the organization for the individual honor.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play on great teams and to win five Selkes,” he said. “The structure of the way that we play as team, that we’ve played for a long time in Boston, has helped me tremendously.”
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