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Patrice Bergeron doesn’t deserve the Selke this year

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Patrice Bergeron

Patrice Bergeron
Photo: Getty Images

It’s an unwritten law in the NHL. If Patrice Bergeron is upright, averagely ambulatory, and plays more than 50 games, he’s going to win the Selke Trophy for the league’s best defensive forward. And it’s not easy to argue against this, as Bergeron has been the league’s smartest player for a decade or more now. But once a player is anointed the best defensive forward, and is thought of as a checking dynamo who also scores, then it’s hard for them to lose that. There isn’t much Bergeron could do now to not be seen as the best checking forward in the league who also happens to pour in a ton of points (and scoring has always played a role in this award, which is pretty nonsensical). Just about the only thing he could do is retire, which has been rumored to be an option after this season.

But Bergeron’s career has evolved. For most of his career, Bergeron was a marvel, starting an overwhelming amount of his shifts in the defensive or neutral zone and then turning the play over to the offensive zone. You could put Bergeron in any situation, and any Bruins coach knew that he would get the puck in the right end of the ice. This is back when the Bruins had talented, more one-dimensional centers like Marc Savard or David Krejci that Bergeron allowed to concentrate more on, or just on, scoring. Bergeron was the Swiss Army knife.

For the first nine seasons of Bergeron’s career, his offensive zone start percentage for his shifts were 40.6, 41.1, 47.0, 41.3, 44.1, 36.8, 39.9, 38.4, and 40.1 This role is pretty much the “dungeon shifts,” something you’d saddle a third or fourth-line center with and their only task would be to harass the other team’s best center and make sure they didn’t score. If that player ever crossed the red line, it was worthy of trumpets and rose petals. The Bruins asked Bergeron to do that, and then also produce at least like a high-end second-line center. Which he did, because he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

However, in the last six seasons, as Krejci’s powers waned just a bit, Bergeron has been used as a genuine, first-line center. His offensive zone start percentage in the past six campaigns hasn’t dipped below 56 percent, and four times it’s been above 60 percent, as it is this season. His main task has been to combine with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to kick a hole in the world through scoring.

Now, because this is still Bergeron, and now he’s mostly starting his shifts in the offensive zone, the puck stays there. His metrics are utterly dominant. His Corsi-share, the amount of attempts on net the Bruins get while he’s on the ice vs. the amount they give up, is a league leading 66.0 percent. That leads by three full percentage points! His expected-goals percentage also leads the league 69.6. His Corsi-against per 60 minutes of even-strength time is the lowest in the league too, as is his xGA per 60.

So if the argument is that it doesn’t matter where he starts, he prevents attempts and chances against the Bruins net, and thus that makes him a great defensive player, that’s fine. The name of the game is to prevent goals and score them, and you do that by preventing chances and creating them, and Bergeron does that. But he doesn’t have to do that by playing nearly as much defense as he used to. Charlie Coyle is asked to take the dungeon shifts for the most part now.

That doesn’t mean that Bergeron is never in the defensive zone these days. He still takes 20 defensive zone draws per 60. But he also takes 32 faceoffs in the offensive zone per game, which leads the league. HIs defense is based on just not being in his own zone at all, which is a valuable skill. Does it make him a great defensive player at this point though? He could probably still do it if the Bs needed, but that’s not what he’s doing now.

If the Selke is truly about rewarding forwards who play defense, may we present Florida’s Mason Marchmant, who starts less than half of his shifts in the offensive zone, and ranks 2nd and 4th in Corsi and xGA against. Or Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno, who starts 45 percent of his shifts in the o-zone and yet is third in xGA against. They’re playing defense far more, and are asked to do so far more, than Bergeron.

Bergeron is going to win the Selke, and the rumors that he might retire will only fuel that as hockey writers want to give him a sendoff. It’s a defensible choice, but most voters won’t know why. They’ll just see that Bergeron is winning a ton of faceoffs, scoring, and playing on the PK and think it’s the normal Bergeron season. It hasn’t been that season in a while. If the idea of the Selke Trophy is to highlight someone doing the work we don’t notice, then Bergeron isn’t it, as great as he is.



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Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager

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Arsenal will face City at the Etihad Stadium tonight, with Guardiola’s former assistant back on his old North West stomping ground in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.

Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.

“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”

Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.

City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.

“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.

“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”



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R Madrid 3 – 1 A Madrid

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Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates with teammate Antoine Griezmann after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Atletico Madrid took the lead against their rivals

Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.

Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring
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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring the opener

It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.

The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.

Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates
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Real Madrid’s Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates

Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.

With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.

Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Karim Benzema’s goal made it 2-1 in extra time

Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.

“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.

“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”

Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.



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Everything we know about Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle

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Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.

Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.
Image: Getty Images

It’s conference championship week. With only four teams on the NFL schedule this week — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals — one interesting storyline can dominate the entire conversation leading up to the games. This time, it’s QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle.

The fact that this storyline is the dominant one heading into the weekend makes sense. He’s the best player in the league, and his team is hosting the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Also, the game is taking place one week after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and was still able to hobble the Chiefs to victory — aided of course by a timely 98-yard touchdown drive that was led by backup quarterback Chad Henne.

How mobile does Mahomes look right now?

Since his right ankle got rolled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no leg in America has had as much attention on it as his. Not even Brent Maher’s as he overcame his kicking yips during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles. Mahomes’ ankle has so much attention on it that Fox 4 KC’s Harold R. Kuntz has been filming him walking down from the press conference podium the last two days. And by filming Mahomes, I mean only his legs.

Thursday update: Mahomes didn’t even need to use the stairs.

Knox’s assessment: Don’t be a hero… until Sunday.

Kuntz isn’t the only reporter on the scene sharing video footage of Mahomes’ mobility. During the portion of practice that was open to the media, many videos were sent out of Mahomes moving around. As the Chiefs were warming up, Mahomes actually jogged and spun as he headed toward his next station. He is certainly running better than he was on Sunday.

In their comments to the media, Andy Reid said that Mahomes “did a nice job and was “comfortable with what we did.” Mahomes said that he believed his Wednesday practice went, “better than I expected.”

For Chiefs fans — and those of us who want to see a well-played AFC Championship Game — this news out of Kansas City is the best we could’ve received. On the Chiefs’ most active days of practice, Mahomes was seen moving very well. Also, he and the head coach both gave positive updates about the health of the most important leg in sports this weekend.

Will the ankle affect Mahomes’ play on Sunday?

There is no possible way that Mahomes will be 100 percent against the Bengals. They are going to test that ankle by trying to apply the same type of pressure that disrupted the Buffalo Bills during the Bengals’ Divisional Round win on Sunday. However, if he can move around all game as well as he has been in practice, he will be able to play well enough for the Chiefs to have a chance at victory.

We’ve received the closeup and overhead views of Mahomes’ health. All that is left is the view at Arrowhead Stadium from the CBS cameras at 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2023.





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