By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
If there was any doubt that Brad Marchand is among the elite left wingers in the league, that was removed Tuesday night when he lit up the Detroit Red Wings for three goals – including the game-winner in overtime – and two assists, for a five-point night. In the four games since his Hall of Famer to be center Patrice Bergeron has been sidelined with at broken foot, the Little Ball of Great has scored four goals – two of which were OT game winners – and chipped in four assists, while essentially willing the Bruins to victory against the Wings at the TD Garden, in what was not the Bruins best effort of the season.
Not bad for a rat that the other 30 teams around the league love to hate, eh?
“I was chuckling after the game because, you know, there he is, the puck finds him,” said B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy, who was clearly pleased with his borderline punk’s production.
“I’ve known Brad a long time. I’ve got a lot of respect for the way he plays the game, the way he conducts himself as a person, as a pro, and we need it… he’s on it, doesn’t quit, made some real nice plays tonight.”
Marchand’s reputation proceeds him – he has been suspended by the league six times, including a five-gamer for elbowing New Jersey Devils defenseman Marcus Johansson in the head in January, and fined three other times for his reckless play – and it was clear that Detroit was trying to goad him into acting up on Tuesday night.
“I thought they were trying to get to him. I thought he did a good job with that,” said the B’s bench boss. “You know those [penalties] at center ice when they pick one guy; they’re kind of annoying to a coach because, clearly, their guy – they’re jabbing each other, and it’s like, really? It has no effect on the play. But I thought he did a good job.
“He’s going to be targeted every night, so he has to get used to that.”
Teams don’t target less talented players, and with the second line of David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk basically held in check for the night, it was all the more important that Marchand kept his cool.
As to his ascent into the NHL’s elite – after gaining entry to the league by simply being a pest – No. 63 was, shall we say, humble. “A lot of it is really based on opportunity,” said the somewhat reformed rat. “You look at a lot of the guys around the league, a lot of the top scorers, and if they’re not playing power play in the big situations, then it’s tough to produce the same way. So, I feel very fortunate that I’ve been put in this position, I’ve been playing with phenomenal players for a very long time now and they’re giving me a lot of opportunities.”
And Marchand will be given plenty of more opportunities in the coming weeks, as the Bruins will be playing 13 games over the next 25 days in the month of March. The schedule will be even more grueling due to injuries to two key players who have been big pieces to the remarkable season put together by the upstarts in Black and Gold, Bergeron (foot) and Charlie McAvoy (knee).
With 66 points in 51 games played to lead the team in scoring, Marchand is average nearly 1.3 points a game, while potting an impressive 20% of his shots taken. It is something that is not lost on his teammates.
“He’s been a big-time player for our team for a long time now, and he obviously enjoys being that guy,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who opened the scoring with a blast from the point only 37 seconds into the contest and added a second goal on the powerplay later in the first. “He had that edge tonight physically, and he had that edge around the net. And he was scoring goals and making plays. He’s obviously a big part of this team so it’s just another night from him on our side, and we are glad to have him.”
As long as he doesn’t let his dark side get the best of him once more, the Little Ball of Great could be a big reason why the Bruins could once again be Stanley Cup contenders come spring.