Bruins C Bergeron says 'it's too early' to decide on future

As Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs began across the NHL on Tuesday, players on the league's best team during the regular season cleaned out their lockers and headed home.

The Boston Bruins had their breakup day at TD Garden, meeting the media for the final time after exit interviews.

As was the case Sunday night, after the Bruins lost to the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of their first-round series, the focus of the room Tuesday was on captain Patrice Bergeron, 37, and his future with the club after 19 seasons.

"The emotions are still hard. The scars will be there for a while," Bergeron said. "It's too early right now to even make a sound decision [about next year]. I really want to make sure I make the right call. I don't know how long it's going to take."

Without going into specific details, the veteran addressed his meeting with Boston coach Jim Montgomery.

"After the fact, there's always a lot of questions," Bergeron said. "And a lot of questions are unanswered for now. Trying to put your head around everything. But it was a great conversation."

Bergeron, 37, missed the first four games of the series vs. the Panthers. Initially, the Bruins said he was suffering from an illness that had swept through their locker room. But eventually, his absence was clarified as being due to injury. After Game 7, Bergeron revealed he has been playing with a herniated disk in his back and said he was unsure about offseason treatment for it.

"Overall, I was healthy throughout the year," Bergeron said. "It was manageable all year. But unfortunately, the back flared up at the wrong time."

Later Tuesday, Bergeron was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given annually to the league's top defensive forward. It's the 12th consecutive season Bergeron made the final list, having won it in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2022.

As the Bruins raced to the Presidents' Trophy this season, Bergeron posted 27 goals and 58 points. Anchoring Boston's top line, he also finished with a plus-35 rating.

But Boston ran into a high-flying Panthers team in Round 1, a talented group that won the Presidents' Trophy last season. Florida overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the series.

"Every year you don't win, you're the loser, but this one was different," Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "We had a team that was really special."

Forward Brad Marchand concurred.

"It's tough. You sit and dwell at the opportunity lost and how things played out," he said. "It doesn't get any easier, and I'm sure it won't for a while."

Decisions from Bergeron and second-line center David Krejci, 37, who could both retire, could alter Boston's entire offseason outlook. The Bruins signed center Pavel Zacha, 26, to a contract extension this season after acquiring him last summer from the New Jersey Devils, but it won't be easy for him to replace either of those veterans.

Zacha had 21 goals in the regular season but was held without a tally vs. the Panthers.