By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Correspondent
With their snake-bit season looking as if it was about to get even tougher, the Bruins trailed the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 with barely any time remaining on the clock on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. Following a draw in the Philly end, B’s forward Brad Marchand worked his way in front of netminder Steve Mason in goal . With less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Marchand deftly deflected a Dougie Hamilton wrist shot that appeared to be going wide, but instead found twine with the help of Marchand’s twig, thereby skirting disaster for the Bruins and ensuring them at least a point in the game.
With overtime winding down and the B’s nemesis, the shootout, lurking and threatening to rear its ugly head, Marchand took a pass from the newly acquired Max Talbot entering the zone, deked the defender, and put a backhand off Philly defenseman Michael Del Zotto’s skate and into the net. It was a fortunate bounce no doubt, but it was a bounce goal scorers get when they are going good.
In the opening minutes of the back to back matinee game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday – a scheduling decision the Bruins were not happy with, especially when they lost an hour to daylight savings time the night before – the Bruins found themselves shorthanded when Reilly Smith was called for slashing against Henrik Zetterberg. Marchand, who was killing the penalty with Patrice Bergeron, picked the pocket of Stephan Weiss just outside of the Detroit zone and bolted in on a breakaway on backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson. The little nose that could got the second string netminder to go prone and simply deposited the puck behind him. His shorthanded strike set the tone for his team, which went on to explode for five goals on the day, and swept two very important games at the Garden this weekend.
Marchand’s three goal performance over the weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for his team. The Bruins have struggled to put the puck in the net all year, they currently rank 18th in the league in that category. The team’s top line has never materialized this year, lacking a right winger from Jump Street after Jarome Iginla left for greener pastures in Colorado via free agency, and center David Krejci being bit by the injury bug at various times this season.
With general manager Peter Chiarelli unable to make a trade to help his team offensively prior and up to the trading deadline on March 2nd, the one piece he did get – former number 6 pick overall in 2010, right wing Brett Connolly from the Tampa Bay Lightning – broke his hand during his second practice with the team last week. Entering Saturday’s game against the Flyers, the Bruins were a team in desperate need of good news.
Enter the Nose Face Killah.
Marchand leads the team with 22 goals this season, but you could argue he hasn’t scored two more important goals this season than the two he scored on Saturday. The Bruins are in a fight to make the playoffs, and in order to do so, they needed someone to step up and pull them from their battered and bruised boot straps, and lead them into the NHL’s second season.
Nathan Horton is not walking through the Bruins locker room door, and neither is Iginla. Even when/if Krejci returns from his knee injury, the team is going to need more from the so-called core of their team, and Marchand appears to be heating up when his team needs him the most.
The Bruins are no longer the type of team that beats you into submission with their physical style of play. They no longer intimidate teams with their swagger. Now more than ever they must rely on getting contributions from up and down their lineup if they are to make more than just an appearance in the playoffs this year.
The Smith – Bergeron – Marchand line has become the Bruins top line with Krejci sidelined until April at the earliest. This weekend Marchand showed that he is capable of stepping up when called upon.
Perhaps the best thing about playoff hockey is the fact that the slate is swept clean, and everyone – despite what many feel has been a chronic underperformance by the Bruins from the front office on down this season – starts out with a 0-0 record.
Number 8 seeds win in the NHL playoffs, just ask the two time Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. For the Bruins to do that it would take a Herculean effort from the core group remaining from the B’s Cup run in 2011.
With his performance over the weekend, Marchand has shown he is ready, willing and able to do his part to make it happen.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan.