In many ways, it was very fitting that Patrice Bergeron's final goal as a member of the Boston Bruins -- a Game 5 tally against the Florida Panthers in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- was set up by Brad Marchand.
Boston has seen its share of legendary teammate duos and Big Threes. Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won three NBA titles for the Celtics in the 1980s. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez powered the Red Sox to two World Series titles in the 2000s. The Tom Brady to Julian Edelman connection helped the Patriots win three Super Bowl championships in the 2010s. There are many other examples, too.
The Bergeron and Marchand duo -- which officially came to an end when the Bruins captain announced Tuesday he was retiring after 19 NHL seasons -- absolutely belongs in the pantheon of great Boston sports partnerships.
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Marchand first broke into the NHL during the 2009-10 season but played fewer than 80 minutes at 5-on-5 with Bergeron. Their first full season as linemates came in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup-winning campaign, and it didn't take long for them to build a rock solid chemistry.
"It kinda clicked right away," Bergeron said on Sportsnet's "32 Thoughts" podcast in November of last year when asked about his friendship with Marchand. "As we all know, he's got the energy and he's got the temper at times. But just an amazing person, super generous, and a great family guy. Over the years -- you know you play with someone for so long, he's on your left side, or you go through ups and downs, and you create connections beyond just being friends. You're best friends. It's a special bond. It's something I'm very lucky to have.
"Actually, a few teammates have said that in the past, where they're like -- they're kinda jealous in a way, they're like, 'I've never had that. I've bounced around.' A few guys have said they've never had that connection with a teammate like we do because we've been playing together for so long. When you look back, you don't think about it, but when someone says that, it's like, I guess you're right. It's pretty special. We should be thankful for that."
The Bruins absolutely dominated when Bergeron and Marchand were on the ice together. The following chart shows how many shot attempts, shots on net, scoring chances and goals occurred when Bergeron and Marchand were both on the ice together during 5-on-5 action. As you can see, the Bruins earned well over 50 percent of all shot attempts, shots on net, scoring chances and goals during the Bergeron/Marchand minutes, including an impressive plus-212 scoring differential over 14 seasons.
On March 18, Bergeron and Marchand broke the franchise record for the most times two teammates factored into the same goal at 407, breaking the previous mark set by Ken Hodge and Phil Esposito.
And they scored... a lot.
Bergeron's 427 goals ranks third all-time in the almost 100-year history of the Bruins. Marchand is sixth at 372 goals, and he could climb much higher before his career is done. They both are underrated passers, too. Bergeron's 613 assists ranks fourth all-time among Bruins. Marchand's 490 ranks ninth.
Few teammates in the entire league over the last decade had the level of on-ice chemistry we saw from Bergeron and Marchand. They always knew where the other would be on the ice at all times, and it led to some fantastic plays.
This play from October of 2018 displayed a perfect Bergeron backcheck, takeaway and dish to Marchand for a goal.
One of the areas where the Bergeron/Marchand duo excelled the most was on the penalty kill. The Bruins had a top 10 penalty kill in eight of the 13 full seasons during which Bergeron and Marchand played together. Boston's 83.9 penalty kill percentage since the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign is No. 1 in the league.
Not only did Bergeron and Marchand often prevent the opposing power play from scoring, they found the net themselves plenty of times as well.
This shorthanded goal from Feb. 6, 2019 against the Los Angeles Kings is one such example. Marchand bats down a cross-ice pass, feeds the puck to Bergeron to begin the 2-on-1 rush and eventually gets it back for a tap-in goal. Marchand has a team record 33 shorthanded goals. If you add Bergeron's 22, it represents the highest total of any two teammates in B's history.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs were another area where the Bergeron/Marchand tandem enjoyed tremendous success. Boston reached the postseason in 12 of the 14 years they played together, including three trips to the Stanley Cup Final and one championship.
Bergeron and Marchand both scored twice when the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, which ended the team's 39-year title drought.
A nifty Marchand pass to Bergeron opened the scoring 14 minutes into the first period, and the Bruins took off from there, eventually building a 3-0 lead at the second intermission. Bergeron's shorthanded goal in the second period was a thing of beauty.
Marchand has the second-most playoff points since the 2011 postseason, while Bergeron is sixth. Bergeron has 10 game-winning playoff goals, while Marchand has 11. Sure, the Bruins did have several disappointing playoff exits during this period, but Bergeron and Marchand almost always came to play at both ends of the ice.
Bergeron and Marchand represent one of the greatest duos in Boston sports history and recent NHL history. It's rare that you see two players more in sync and as productive as they were for more than 10 years. The results speak for themselves, including a Stanley Cup title, the most regular season wins (635) and second-most playoff victories (86) of any team since 2009-10.
"I'm disappointed and really going to miss him on and off the ice. We spent a lot of time together on the road and on the ice during practice and during games," Marchand told WBZ-TV's Dan Roche on Tuesday. "But at the same time, I'm excited for him and his next journey in life. He has a beautiful young family and he'll be able to be around for them all the time and take in all the time he's been away and make up for that; be the super dad that he is.
"He's given everything he possibly could to the game," added Marchand. "When he's in it he's so dedicated and plays with so much pride. Every day he wants to be his best. It's taken a toll on his body so I'm excited for him and his next chapter. I'm going to miss him, obviously."