It’s not the Patrice Bergeron news everyone is waiting for, but there was some news regarding the Bruins captain on Tuesday.
For the 11th straight year, Bergeron was named one of the three finalists for the Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s best defensive forward as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
The 11 straight nominations extend his own record for the Selke, and they surpass Wayne Gretzky’s 10 straight top-three finishes for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) for the most consecutive top-three finishes for one award. Bergeron previously won the award in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Bergeron should break another record, too. He should finally win his record fifth Selke Trophy, and it shouldn’t be close.
The other two finalists are Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov and Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm. Barkov won the award last year and had another great two-way season this year, but the Panthers’ wide-open style means more scoring chances against, including when Barkov is on the ice.
Lindholm centers arguably the best line in hockey with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk on his wings, but there’s an argument to be made that Tkachuk is actually the best defensive player on that line.
You don’t need to tear down Barkov and Lindholm to make the case for Bergeron, though. The 36-year-old, who is currently deciding whether he wants to retire or play a 19th season, had statistically the best defensive season a forward has had since advanced defensive metrics started being tracked 15 years ago.
Among 379 forwards who played at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this season, Bergeron ranked first in Corsi-for percentage (65.6%), first in shots on goal share (67.3%), first in expected goals-for percentage (69.2%), first in Corsi against per 60 (40.2), first in expected goals against per 60 (1.51), first in Evolving-Hockey’s defensive rating (+8.9), and first in Evolving-Hockey’s expected defensive rating (+9.3). He also led the NHL in faceoff wins (991) and faceoff percentage (61.9%) and remains an excellent penalty-killer.
Bergeron’s heat map from HockeyViz below shows just how much he helps to completely shut down the middle of the ice in his own zone (all that blue in the bottom left image).
No matter what you look at, it points in one direction: Bergeron should be a lock to win his fifth Selke, breaking his tie with Bob Gainey at four. In Greg Wyshynski’s most recent survey of actual voters for ESPN, 52% had Bergeron first for the Selke. Barkov was second at 17%. It would be genuinely shocking if Bergeron doesn’t win.
“His level of play, he’s still a number one centerman in this league,” Bruce Cassidy said of Bergeron on Tuesday. “We saw that this year. Up for the Selke. In my estimation, should win it. No disrespect to any other nominees, but I think he’s had another great year. We’ll see how that turns out.”
Asked about Bergeron having arguably his best defensive season statistically, Cassidy had an amusing response.
“I would say there’s a lot of new categories the nerds have come up with, and he keeps excelling in all of them,” Cassidy said. “Good for him. Every year there seems to be more metrics to be judged by, and that’s great that he continues to excel in all of them. It’s what he is. He’s a great defensive player, eye test or stats test. I think he passes them all.”