By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
A wake-up call, that’s exactly what Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Capitols in Washington was for the Bruins. It served as a sobering reminder of just how far the team is from being a playoff worthy squad, and the light years they are away from being a Stanley Cup contender once again.
However, not all is gloom and doom for the Black and Gold, with his two strikes against the Caps and his 13 goals in his last 13 games; Brad Marchand is streaking towards NHL superstardom. The Little Ball of Great is on a point a game pace with 54 points in 54 games, and is just two points behind Sidney Crosby and five behind league leader Conner McDavid. It seems there is only one thing that can stop the sandpaper-like sniper.
It is as if he can’t help himself. He has been involved in two separate incidences in the course of a couple of weeks, having been fined $10,000 by the league for a behind the back slew foot on the Red Wings Niklas Kronwall in Detroit on January 24th; then committing a very similar offense against the Lightning’s Anton Stralman in Tampa Tuesday night.
No penalties were called on either play, but they could have been – and probably should have been – whistled for what they were; a very dangerous infraction. If nothing else, it gives more ammunition to those who detest his style of play, and label him dirty.
It is no secret that Marchand plays on the edge, and that is something that has kept him from getting some of the recognition his play dictates he should get. After playing 20 games in a mucking and grinding role in 2009-10 (and enduring the derogatory nickname “Marshmont”), he has proven to be a consistent 20 to 25 goal scorer (he scored 18 in 45 games in the strike shortened ‘12/13 season); and his 37 lamp lightings last season caught the attention of all of hockey.
Suddenly, he wasn’t viewed as just the pesky little gnat that loved to agitate and chirp; he was a force to be reckoned with his longtime line mate, Patrice Bergeron. He even caught the eye of Team Canada, and along with Bergeron and Crosby, skated on the top line in the World Cup of Hockey, leading Canada to the gold in September.
Yet, for all he has done and continues to do, it can all come tumbling down if he can’t control himself. The two instances outlined above, make it four times in his career that he has been accused of, or punished for, slew footing. In the 2011/12 season, he was fined $2,500 for performing the dirty deed on Matt Niskanen, and suspended two games in ‘14/15 for doing the same to Derick Brassard.
The irony is, he is nearly attached at the hip on the ice to a guy with a spotless reputation around the league in Bergeron. The two have played together for almost his entire career, and the line of Bergeron with Marchand and youngster David Pastrnak on his wings, compose one of the most formidable top lines in the game.
The fact of the matter is, without the play of the Bruins that threesome – and Marchand, in particular – Bruins fans would be talking about the draft lottery, instead of the marginal hopes of making the playoffs this season. For the majority of this year, they have been the team’s only hope of generating offense on a nightly basis, and the Little Ball of Great has grown into a leader.
Because of his speed, his skill, and his hockey IQ; Brad Marchand is ascending into the top tier of talent in the game today. He is fresh off his first – of what could/should be many – All-Star appearance, and at the tender age of 28, he is just reaching his prime.
And while, at times, he seems like a hockey savant, putting up point totals that rival the best players in the NHL; when he does what he did in Detroit and Tampa over the past couple of weeks, he looks like nothing but a cheap shot artist, struggling to stay in the league.
If the little fire plug with the penchant of putting pucks in the net, wants the recognition and the acclaim his game right now definitely deserves, he needs to concentrate on continuing to stockpile points and leave the role of the rat behind.
Otherwise, he will overshadow what is becoming an extraordinary story.