Ask anyone around the league about Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, and you’ll get several different adjectives to describe him as a player.
Agitator, troublemaker, pest and pain in the *** are probably some of the most common ones you’d hear from not just outside Boston but also from Bruins Nation. After all, the diminutive forward has a way of stirring the pot and getting under the skin of opponents every night.
However, another word you may soon associate with Marchand is “sniper”.
The 27-year old has been a model of offensive consistency for the Bruins during his five seasons with the Black and Gold. He has been a 20-goal scorer in each of his four full years in Boston while scoring 18 goals in 45 games during the lockout-shortened campaign of 2013.
Marchand is now entering his seventh professional season with the Bruins and, theoretically speaking, the prime of his NHL career. The 5’9 winger may be small in stature but is on the cusp of being that elite sniper Boston has craved for years.
Lighting The Lamp
Back in March, I lauded Marchand for just how important his goals were in the grand scheme of things last season.
Boston’s third-round pick in 2006 showed his goal-scoring touch in all situations. Out of his 24 goals scored last season, 20 came at even-strength while scoring twice on the power play and shorthanded. To break it down further, Marchand scored the first goal 10 times for the Bruins, second to Alex Ovechkin’s (12) and his three overtime goals were second only to John Tavares (4).
That’s pretty good company.
For a player that doesn’t get a lot of time on the man advantage (averaging 1:04 PP TOI/GP in his career), Marchand has still managed to score 116 goals but additional power play time would work to his advantage this season. The native of Nova Scotia has scored more goals when down a man (15) than up one (14) in his career and is not prominently featured on the man advantage, unlike his linemate Bergeron.
Marchand has been one of Boston’s most accurate shooters throughout his career. The “Nose Face Killah” leads all current Bruins forwards with a shooting percentage of 15.1 percent and arguably is their best pure finisher. It’s that kind of consistency the Black and Gold will crave this season to avoid a repeat of last season’s struggles.
Changing The Perception
If you go outside of New England, hockey fans aren’t particularly fond of Marchand’s on-ice behavior.
He and the Department of Player Safety have crossed paths twice in the past four seasons. First came a five-game ban after Marchand clipped then Vancouver Canucks defenseman Sami Salo back in January 2012. This past season, he received a two-game suspension after slew-footing New York Rangers center Derrick Brassard in January.
Marchand had been fined before for doing the same thing to Matt Niskanen back in 2011. Add that to being a motor mouth after the whistle and you have a player that is not making any new friends outside of Boston.
However, not many people think of Marchand as a sniper and game-changer. Unless you’re the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The pesky forward torched Vancouver for five goals and seven points in Games 3-7 that year, highlighted by this shorthanded goal in Game 3.
People around Causeway Street know about Marchand’s offensive capabilities. A breakout offensive campaign will begin to shape the perception League-wide into someone that’s more than just a pest.
Looking at the Bruins roster, it’s hard to fathom anyone making a run at 30 goals this season. Bergeron and Loui Eriksson have done it in the past but have found a middle ground at being great two-way players who are locks for 20-plus goals annually. Marchand is arguably the only forward who may reach that elusive 30-goal mark this season.
If you look at last year, Boston’s leading goal scorer could have made a serious run at 30 were it not for a goal drought lasting almost a month in early March (15 games). He had scored five goals in the four games prior but would only tally two more markers between March 10 and the end of the season.
The challenge for Marchand will be to develop the consistency that is required of a modern-day NHL sniper. He has the ability to score with great aplomb but is very streaky on the ice. Bergeron will get him the puck; it all depends on whether Marchand can take his chances and convert on them when the team needs it most.
This is a big year for the winger. He has the opportunity to mold himself from a super pest into the offensive threat the Bruins will need going forward.