May 24, 2011, 8:00 AM EST
Going into the Eastern Conference finals, the health of Simon Gagne and Patrice Bergeron ranked as two of the bigger questions. Both Gagne and Bergeron came into the 2011 playoffs with a history of concussion issues and suffered head injuries in their second round series. Gagne came back in Game 1 while Bergeron had to wait until Game 3, but in both cases, it was natural to wonder if they would be able to contribute on their traditionally high levels.
As it turns out, it seems like each player hasn’t missed a beat.
Gagne causes problems for the Bruins again
Gagne is the leading scorer for the Tampa Bay Lightning in this series, scoring three goals and two assists for five points and a +5 rating in five games. He was the only Lightning player to score a goal in Game 5 by finishing a nice one-timer set up by Steven Stamkos. This five-game run pushes his 2011 playoff point total to 11 points in 12 games, with a +7 rating.
(Then again, maybe Gagne is just a Boston Bruins killer. He tormented the Bruins as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in their 2010 semifinals series, scoring four goals and one assist for five points and a +2 rating in the four games he played.)
Bergeron lifts Bruins’ play at both ends
A mild concussion kept Bergeron off the ice for the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, but he’s right back to his spot as the team’s most complete forward. He scored two goals and one assist for three points and a +3 rating in his three games back. He’s also been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 64 percent of his draws in Game 3 and about 55 percent in Game 4 and 5. Bergeron is tied with five other players for third place in playoff scoring with 15 points.
Obviously, these two cases provide small sample sizes, but both players seem like they’ve made seamless returns. Gagne might not get the same attention as Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos or Martin St. Louis but he’s another dangerous forward for the Lightning.
Bergeron is a do-everything forward as always for Boston, playing big minutes and making great plays, such as his sublime pass to set up Brad Marchand‘s game-winning goal in Game 5.
Concussions are a worrisome issue in the NHL, but it’s nice to see Gagne and Bergeron bounce back so profoundly from those injuries.
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