Death, taxes and Brad Marchand overtime game-winners. Those are the guarantees of life in Boston.
On Sunday night, the Boston Bruins played in a tightly-contested, hard-fought, low-scoring battle against the Minnesota Wild. After a David Pastrnak snap-shot lifted the Bruins to a 1-0 advantage in the second period, things remained quiet until the middle of the third, when Mikko Koivu snuck one past Tuukka Rask to even the score. Both teams were held scoreless through the end of regulation, sending the game into overtime.
What happened next has become somewhat of a regularity for Bruins fans. Marchand stepped onto the ice to begin the overtime period, and 28 seconds (and one beautiful indirect pass from Torey Krug) later, the game was over.
Marchand’s Skillset Perfect for 3-on-3
Marchand’s game-winner on Sunday marked his fifth overtime goal of the season, tying the NHL record that is currently co-held by Jonathan Toews, Stevens Stamkos, and Alex Galchenyuk. It’s also his third overtime winner of the month and his fourth since mid-February.
His domination in overtime this season, while impressive, should not be particularly surprising. Over the past few seasons, Marchand has developed into one of the NHL’s elite goal-scorers, and his skillset fits perfectly with the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime format, which debuted in the 2015-16 season.
3-on-3 overtime obviously opens up a lot of space on the ice. As a result, it favors quick, creative players, particularly those who are able to exploit that extra space to burn defenders and earn chances to attack the net. For a player like Brad Marchand, who is a natural at creating space during standard 5-on-5 play, that extra space can seem unfair to defend against.
On top of that, Marchand has one of the NHL’s better shots. Among players with at least 25 games played this season, Marchand ranks sixth in shooting percentage, with 20.2% of his shots reaching the back of the net. His goal on Sunday night showcased that shot very well. After catching the indirect pass, Marchand worked his way to the top of the left circle and ripped one past Wild netminder Alex Stalock’s glove side corner to end the contest. Marchand is deadly from inside the circles, and with all of the space that is available during 3-on-3 play, it’s extremely difficult to keep him out of the danger zone.
Marchand is also a safe bet when it comes to one-on-one puck battles, which can make a huge difference when there are only six skaters on the ice. He has, throughout his career, had a reputation for being a scrappy player, but over the past few seasons, we’ve seen him use this scrappiness to effectively win one-on-one situations. Marchand commonly uses nifty stick-lifts and strong body position to come away from battles with puck possession, and his teammates have taken notice.
“He wants to be the guy. He’s got that edge,” Krug said of Marchand after setting him up for the game-winner, per the Boston Herald. “He wins a lot of 50-50 pucks and when you’re 3-on-3 on the ice and he’s winning those battles, it’s going to lead to a chance for your team. We expect him to be on the right side of the puck most of the time. That’s what good players and leaders on our team do.”
When you put all of those individual skills together, you have a player that was seemingly created for 3-on-3 overtime. Only eight players in the league have three or more overtime winners this season, and Marchand is the first to reach five. With eight more games remaining on the Bruins schedule (before the start of the postseason), he has a chance to continue his overtime heroics and set the NHL record for overtime game-winners in a season.
One thing is for sure, if one of Boston’s remaining games does head to an extra frame, the opposing team will certainly have their eye on No. 63. But as we’ve seen in the past, that might not be enough.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!