By Matt Dillane
Think back to the 2011 playoffs and specifically, the play of Brad Marchand. Most fans will remember the winger playing dual key roles as both an offensive threat and as an agitator to opposing teams. However, while many will recall the iconic image of Marchand using Daniel Sedin as a speed bag, fans across the league may forget how that same player earned 19 points in 25 playoff games helping the Bruins win its first Stanley Cup in 39 years. While Marchand gets a bad rep around the league as a “rat,” Bruins fans always knew the talent was there. This year, the entire NHL is finally seeing it.
With incidents like the punches to Sedin, the kissing of the ring, and the sometimes controversial plays, the pure skill of Brad Marchand has been overshadowed for much of his career thus far. Fans outside of Boston do not see how the undersized forward never hesitates to go into corners, or how he often wins battles for loose pucks, or how he performs an incredible deke before making a perfect pass to the open man after drawing the attention of defenders to himself. Had he not be serving a suspension causing him to miss the game, the 2016 Winter Classic may have had a totally different atmosphere with Marchand in the lineup.
Coming off a recently ended streak of scoring 13 goals in 13 games, Marchand’s production has not only been off the charts, but his scoring has come at opportune times for the Bruins. Four of his 30 total goals this season (a career-high) have come shorthanded, with another six being scored on the power play.
In Saturday night’s comeback win over the Dallas Stars, Marchand helped the Bruins stay in the game by tallying a goal in the first period. He kept the momentum going by scoring a power play goal to open up the second frame, kicking off a run that saw the Bruins score six unanswered goals en route to a 7-3 victory over one of the NHL’s best teams. Marchand drove the attack, adding an assist to his two goal night while registering six shots on net.
What many outside of Boston fail to understand is the edge to Marchand’s game allows him to be such a successful skill player. These people only see the negatives. Yes, he’s chippy with his play and likes to chirp after the whistle to get under the skin of his opponents. But he will then take advantage of over-aggressive play from hotheaded players and at the very least often draw a penalty. Think of Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactic back in 1974 against Joe Frazier. Marchand baits the opposing team with his “pest play” before countering with his speed and skillfulness. The opposition is left on its heels wondering which Marchand will be on the ice each shift.
When Marchand entered the league in 2009, he began his career with fourth line minutes and penalty killing duty. That same tenacity combined with his top-level shot and creativity with the puck makes him one of the Bruins’ top offensive threats. With much of the Bruins roster changed over from the 2011 cup-winning team, Marchand’s role has been amplified. The winger is unquestionably thriving in the spotlight.
This season has been the year when Marchand has taken on a true leadership role with the team. With the movement of Milan Lucic over the summer and season-ending injury to assistant captain Chris Kelly, Marchand remains as one of the few active Bruins on the team with Stanley Cup champion experience. Once the captaincy inevitably moves on from Zdeno Chara to Patrice Bergeron, fans should expect Marchand to receive a permanent assistant captain role.
Bruins fans have known Marchand’s game always went beyond being an agitator. It appears the rest of the league is realizing this as well. The NHL recently recognized the forward’s talent by giving him third star of the week honors. As Marchand’s abilities as a player receive more attention across the NHL, the forward will continue to play an extremely important part of this Bruins franchise. Now, 10 seasons since he was drafted in the third round, Marchand has become the superstar Bruins fans knew he could be, and the entire league is taking notice.