Bruins’ Marchand Now Backing Up His Trashtalking with Stellar Play
By Steve Conroy
BOSTON -- Trashtalking may be what Brad Marchand is most known for around the league right now after his fellow NHLers dubbed him the best/worst in the business earlier this week.
But his verbal eviscerations of opponents would be empty if he didn’t have any skills to back it up.
And in Thursday’s 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Newark, he demonstrated again what everyone in Boston has come to understand and appreciate -- there is a lot more to Marchand than his mouth.
The Bruins left wing notched three assists -- the last of which gave his long-time centerman Patrice Bergeron his 30th goal -- to become the first Bruin to notch 90 points in a season season Marc Savard had 96 in 2006-07.
He’s climbed into the top 10 in NHL scoring, coming in at the eighth spot right behind Nathan MacKinnon. His 59 assists are a career high. With eight games left, hitting the even more magical mark of 100 is not out of the question for Marchand. He’d be the first Bruin to hit the mark since Joe Thornton did it in 2002-03.
Coach Bruce Cassidy had March-and when he first turned pro in Providence a decade ago and Cassidy admitted he never saw this coming.
“I didn’t see him as a big point-getter,” said Cassidy after the win in Jersey. “I saw him as an NHL player that would help, more of a similar goal-assist, similar numbers, but he’s managed to grow his game in terms of making plays.
“He’s playing with players now that finish plays probably more than when he first started. So now the plays he’s making are going in the back of the net. I’m proud of the guy. He works hard at ever aspect of the game, he’s grown his game. His power-play skills have really grown, that’s where you distribute pucks. So good for him.”
But even more than the spurt in production, and beyond his humor and showmanship (his Conor McGregor-inspired celebration has to be one of the highlights of the season), Marchand’s personal growth this season has cemented his status as one of the leaders of this Bruins’ team.
That was evident from opening night in Washington, when Lars Eller did some hot-dogging after scoring a late third period goal that completed the 7-0 blowout and Marchand did not let him get away with it. It showed up in Columbus last week when the B’s were experiencing their predictable letdown after having their 19-game point streak snapped the game before in Pittsburgh. They were down 5-1 and it would have been easy to mentally turn the page on that one, but Marchand spearheaded a comeback attempt that made the Blue Jackets work for their victory.
And despite past declarations of lessons learned after delivering a bad hit or other indiscretions that had some rolling their eyes when he discussed his extracurricular behavior, evidence thus far shows that Marchand has made an honest, earnest effort to stay on the good side of the on-ice law.
While his barbs may be the first thing that come to mind of people in other cities when Marchand’s name comes up, the fact that he’s become one of the very best in the league is undeniable.
“He just keeps getting better,” said Bergeron. “He’s an elite player in this league, one of the best left wingers in the league. He’s proving that from one year to another. Obviously, those numbers don’t lie but also just the work that he puts in every day. He’s a big part of our team on and off the ice. He’s a leader now. It’s not just about points, it’s also about the details, the penalty kill and everything. It goes to all the hard work he’s been putting in.”
If hitting 90 points was a big milestone for Marchand, he hid it well.
“It’s nice, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really mean anything,” said Marchand, in full leadership mode. “At the end of the day, our goal isn’t to get individual points, it’s to get wins and continue to climb up in playoff position.
“And once the playoffs come around, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the regular season. So at the end of the day, it’s all about getting to the playoffs. But yeah, it’s been fun.”