Boston Bruins Marchand Elevates His Skill Game


Boston Bruins Marchand Elevates His Skill Game

As the upstart Boston Bruins continue to rack up wins and unite as a team, one seasoned vet who has particularly impressed throughout the season is Brad Marchand.

His play has noticeably risen a level this year, particularly in the skill game. While he still can be an effective agitator at times, what has stood out has been his creativity with the puck, quickness, consistent scoring threat and determination along the boards and in the corners to emerge with the puck and make plays.

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  • Bruins President Cam Neely had high praise for Marchand on CSN’s Felger & Mazz show recently. “I think he’s been playing fantastic,” he said. “He’s on a mission. I think he’s got personal goals set in his mind that he’s looking to achieve. He’s been very consistent. There have been stretches (in past years) where you want to see him contribute and he hadn’t, but this year he has been our most consistent forward I think, especially offensively.”

    In the last two games alone, Marchand can be seen making the kind of skilled and athletic plays that have been emblematic of his season. In a 3-0 win against the Penguins Dec. 16, he whipped by a defender with the puck in open ice and was tripped but managed to get up in stride and continue the charge into the offensive zone. And in last night’s 6-2 victory in Pittsburgh, he set up Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded goal after a steal and some nifty stickhandling before centering a perfect pass. Later in the game his battle to keep the puck amid players on the boards freed up Zdeno Chara’s point blast and another goal for Bergeron off the rebound.

    Marchand has been scoring, too, throughout the year with some pretty stickhandling and top shelf shots from the circles. In 29 games, he’s potted 15 goals to lead the team and is on a 40-goal pace, which would significantly eclipse his previous high of 28 in 2011-12. The left wing also has 24 points, which puts him in position to surpass his high of 55 and sky rocket over last year’s total of 42. He further leads the team at +14 and is second in shots with 95, a pace that far exceeds previous seasons.

    Additionally Marchand, 5’9″, 181 lbs, has earned a place on the team’s second powerplay unit, chipping in three goals on the man advantage. He’s always been a trademark threat to go the other way while playing down a man (including three shorthanded goals this year), but he’s deservedly been given more powerplay time this season and has helped round out the Bruins’ league-best powerplay (29.2% rating, four points higher than the Capitals who are second).

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    “To me he’s playing some of his best with us since he’s been a Bruin,” Claude Julien told CSNNE. “He’s stick-handling the puck well, and he’s shooting the puck well. I think he’s a good fit on that [second] unit where we have him. What I like about [Marchand] is that he jumps on those loose pucks extremely well, and is always capable of making something exciting happen on the power play.”

    “It is nice to be out there, and create that healthy competition,” Marchand added. “It’s good for the team, and pushes the first unit to be better. It pushes us to be better, as well.”

    At 27, the pesky Marchand may be maturing and hitting his prime years which the Bruins are happy to benefit from. He always towed a narrow line in past seasons with his ability to agitate opponents through humorous sarcastic chatter or pushing the envelope of physical play, earning him nicknames such as “Nose Face Killah” and “Little Ball of Hate” – the latter of which even President Obama referenced in an amusing congratulatory speech at the White House in early 2012 after the Bruins won the Cup. Any Boston fan is sure to remember Marchand punching Canucks star forward Daniel Sedin several times in the face during the Stanley Cup series against Vancouver without retaliation or getting called for a penalty. But Marchand also put the puck in the net during the Cup run, and was a key force with 11 goals and 19 points in 25 games.

    His effectiveness as a combination agitator/skill player reminds one of a modern day Ken “The Rat” Linseman, who at 5’11” and 180 lbs scored 125 goals and 372 points over 389 games for Boston from 1984-1990 and will suit up for the B’s alumni team against Montreal’s Dec. 31 prior to the NHL Winter Classic in Foxborough. Like Marchand, Linesman also had his fair share of penalty minutes (746). Marchand has 398 PIMs to go with 131 goals and 252 points in 406 games.

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    Marchand is also good at drawing penalties, both through getting under opponents’ skin and perhaps more so with his ability to stickhandle by defenders through the neutral zone or use his quickness to cut back and forth along the boards and circle out of trouble in the offensive zone. He’s averaging 0.8 penalties drawn per 60 minutes, and has seemed to elevate his overall skill game a couple notches. Even though he’s averaging 1.7 penalties taken, he has stepped up his leadership through his work ethic and example on the ice as the Bruins field a newer team featuring several emerging young players. 

    Boston’s media has taken notice of Marchand’s elevated play and contributions. “Brad Marchand is off to the best start of his career,” according to NESN. “The veteran winger has scored 15 goals through 29 games, putting him on pace for the first 40-goal season of his career. Five of those goals have come in December, and the Bruins have taken a point in all but one of their seven games this month.”

    The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa tweeted about Marchand’s performance in a Dec. 14 game against the Oilers in which he tallied a goal and rang up 9 shots, calling it “elite.”

    Number 63 is definitely making a case to be resigned by Boston once his contract expires after next season. With Torey Krug due an extension after this season and Loui Eriksson set to become a UFA at the end of the year, the Bruins would be wise to prioritize Krug and Marchand as well as the team’s young crop of rising players in their long-term plans. Both bring quickness that is highly sought after in today’s high-skilled and motored NHL. Krug brings much-needed offense and playmaking from the blueline, and solid defense through smart positioning and sheer will that belie his size. It was on display last night in a one-on-one play with Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin roaring down the ice with the puck and all sorts of moves, but Krug calmly stayed in front of him and angled him harmlessly out of the play. Krug and Marchand also bring more of the ‘Bruin’ mold to the table. Although he’s improved this year over his first two subpar seasons in Boston the 30-year old Eriksson will likely garner much more in free agency than merited, and if the B’s could get a low first round pick for him at the trade deadline they should do it in a heartbeat and help fans move on from management’s monumental blunder in trading budding superstar Tyler Seguin.