Bruins’ Marchand Earning an ‘A’

The Bruins limped home after another injury to rookie defenseman, Urho Vaakanainen, but their play as of late has been encouraging despite the ailments and a forgettable loss to enemy number one, the Montreal Canadiens at home. David Pastrnak has continued finding the back of the net and is tied for second in goals with 10 . However, Brad Marchand is silently becoming the backbone of the Bs by displaying not only world-class skill, but also exemplary leadership. Perhaps a promotion to alternate captain last Tuesday inspired number 63.

Marchand Mixing It Up

With Tuesday’s tilt in Ottawa still very much up for grabs in the first period, Zach Smith buried a much smaller, Matt Grzelcyk from his blindside. Marchand quickly challenged the much larger Smith, and ate a few good punches for his trouble, but he wasn’t going to let anyone run a defenseless teammate on his watch.

Brad Marchand Bruins
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This was Marchand’s second fight in nine games. The Bruins undoubtedly don’t want one of their top offensive weapons dropping the gloves at this rate, but both bouts have been worthy and earned him respect in Boston.

Say what you will about Marchand pummeling another larger man, Lars Eller in the season opener after Eller taunted the Bruins’ bench following his goal to make the score 7-0 Capitals, but Marchand’s response was justified in the eyes of Boston. Marchand may be showing up on the scoresheet in the wrong areas, but it is for the right reasons. He continues to endear himself to his teammates by jumping to their defense and Boston surely appreciates his willingness to stand up to larger adversaries. I think the saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the nose in the fight.”

Marchand on a Mission

Marchand hasn’t just been flashing his fists to earn an “A” grade. He also showcased his top tier talent, which was on full display against Ottawa with a dangle and dish to Pastrnak that set social media on fire.

It may appear he is off to a slow start with just two goals, but he has tallied 11 assists and 13 points in 11 games. His linemates have benefited from his puck distribution as Pastrnak is on pace to be the Bruins first 50 goal scorer since Cam Neely and Bergeron is second on the team with seven.

Although the alternate captain duties were rotated to David Krejci later last week, Marchand continued his unselfish play even when he had a chance to improve his goal total in front of an empty net. Instead, he elected to give up a golden scoring opportunity to provide Pastrnak to boost his goal total even more. Unfortunately, Pasta couldn’t bury, but just another example of  Marchand’s leadership and team first mentality.

Marchand Is Misunderstood

Marchand carried the team when Bergeron was injured last season and single-handedly kept the Bruins in the hunt for the Eastern Conference crown by scoring three consecutive game winning goals and breaking the Bruins’ record for overtime goals. This season, he is contributing in ways other than scoring, but his recent play is equally as important to the Bruins’ success.

Marchand has climbed to the summit of the mountain before. He took the league by storm in his rookie season and only gained strength in the playoffs as he played an invaluable role in the Bs’ run. He not only scored big goals, but also physically punished Vancouver in the final, which resulted in the Bruins gaining a mental edge in the series and eventually hoisting the Cup after seven games.

Marchand, right, leads all rookies in playoff scoring and set a Bruins rookie record for playoff goals (Icon SMI)

Marchand is often inaccurately categorized as a villain. He may cross the line from time to time, but playing on the line is all he knows. People think he hasn’t changed, but why should he? Asking a world class player to change their game that was so vital to winning a championship seems silly. His good far outweighs his bad. Marchand was a third round pick who managed to turn into one of the best player’s in the world. He made it this far by playing with a sharp edge, and he must continue teetering on it, if the Bruins are going to make it back to the mountain top.

Bruins Need Marchand’s Leadership

The fire the Bruins caught against Ottawa and the Flyers was quickly extinguished by the Canadiens who shutout the Bs for their first loss at home on the season. The leadership displayed during last week disappeared, and the first line was uncharacteristically quiet. It shouldn’t be discounted that Claude Julien may be the only person on the planet who can reasonably defend Marchand-Bergeron-Patrnak, but the effort of the entire team was questionable.

The Bruins defer to Krejci for alternate captain duties when David Backes is out. With all due respect, Krejci may be is well liked and a skilled veteran, but he isn’t going to stand up to the opposition physically and put the team on his back. He may be steady, but the team is starving to follow someone who will fight for them. Bergeron is too gentlemanly to bite back, and Chara believes all of his monstrous minutes are too valuable to relinquish.

Management must commit to Marchand as alternate captain permanently to balance the leadership and give the team a spark. It is evident that he takes the honor to heart and elevates his game when he is entrusted with the leadership role. The Bruins need to tap into Marchand’s leadership ability to effectively weather the recent storm of injuries and once again award him an “A”.