If you’ve ever seen me around Boston or at the TD Garden, you will know who I am by the signed “BALLOFHATE” Marchand jersey I wear. (The look on his face when he signed it, and the chuckle it got out of Gregory Campbell was priceless!) For the last three years, he’s been my favorite player on the Boston Bruins. Brad Marchand is my size, and that guy routinely outskates, outchirpes, and occasionally outmuscles players the size of Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton. I grabbed him pretty early in the fantasy draft to the surprise of several players. He was their leadering scorer last season, and I was expecting a similar performance from him this year, especially with the departure of clutch master Nathan Horton, and high scoring (on and off the ice) Tyler Seguin.
So far, I’ve been proven wrong. Marchand has a single goal to his name. Even though it was a game winner against the Detroit Red Wings, The Little Ball of Hate is having the same kind of start that Milan Lucic was having last year. Thankfully, Lucic hit the afterburners in the post season to help get the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final last year. #63 has had a rough couple of games. He made several ugly mistakes in the 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets. They were so obvious and scathing that Bruins coach Claude Julien promoted Reilly Smith to his position and bumped Marchand down to the third line.
In the last few seasons, the third line was where you were sent when they couldn’t trade you, put you on waivers, or just hoped you snapped out of it. That ‘purgatory line’ had good players that were underperforming (Rich Peverley), injury prone players (Chris Kelly), or players that were just not performing to where they should have been (Tyler Seguin at the end). Is the demotion just a temporary thing for the usually pesty pesky Marchand, or is the coach trying something knew here?
The switched worked for Boston this afternoon. Reilly Smith(and Patrice Bergeron) earned an assist on Loui Eriksson’s go ahead(and first as a Bruin) goal for the Bruins in the third period. Marchand knew his play is sub-par up to this point, and he seems to have understood why Claude Julien gave Smith the bump up.
“I was just rushing plays, and that stuff happens,” said Marchand after the game. “I’ve got to be better. We’ve been kind of quiet, and I think he was just switching things up to try to get us going. They scored right away, so it worked. I just need to get back to play simple, and play the system. If I do that then things will start to fall into place.”
For Claude Julien’s part, he was just making the proper moves to give two points for Boston. He knows Marchand’s quality as a winger and as a player, and wanted to give him a step back to make sure he could get his head wrapped around the game. “He’s been fighting it for the last little while here.” offered Julien. “Sometimes you need to take a guy away from where he is, and take some of the pressure off. It’s not because he doesn’t want to do well.”
“In his mind he’s trying, but he just needs to find his game. Sometimes putting a guy on another line will help him find his game. “He’s fighting it. There’s no doubt he’s fighting it. As a coach you make the change you think is right to win a hockey game. We know how good [Marchand] can be. Right now he just needs to fight through it.”
I know the Bruins are 3-1-0, and it’s a strong start to the season. But is bringing Marchy down a good thing, or should we all be a little worried?