Boston Bruins fans have been collective witnesses to the evolution of their lovable pest Brad Marchand.
However, no one could have predicted the incredible season their feisty winger has put together.
Marchand’s stick is emitting more heat than the sun right now. The 27-year-old is in the best goal-scoring form in his career with 13 goals in his last 13 games, tying his career-high of 28 set in his second full season in 2011-12. That number is also good for fifth in the NHL, rubbing shoulders with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin among the elite snipers in the game.
Pretty good company, eh?
Is it too soon for Brad Marchand for MVP talks? #Bruins
— Dan Utz on a shelf (@bru_lander) February 12, 2016
As Boston continues to scrap for their place among the Eastern Conference top-eight, Marchand’s form should be the foundation for the argument of including the six-year veteran in the conversation for the Hart Trophy. This prestigious, annual award is given to the player “judged to be the most valuable to his team”, according to the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Bruins have won this honor 12 times in 91 years with Phil Esposito the last to take the trophy home in 1974.
Even though it’s a longshot, could Marchand be stating his claim to a horse in the Hart race?
How Does He Compare?
At this point in the season, there’s many viable candidates to be finalists for the League MVP.
Kane and his League-leading 78 points in 59 games are sure to be a lock for (at the very least) a place in the top-three. Ovechkin is setting the pace again this year with 35 goals to lead the NHL and is always a candidate. Washington netminder and teammate Braden Holtby can also throw his hat into the ring, backstopping the Capitals to an impressive 40-10-4 record and recording a League-high 35 wins.
So, where does Marchand rank in this group? The third-round pick of the Bruins in 2006 is the most accurate shooter, scoring on 16.7-percent of his shots this season including a 24.5-percent mark in his last 13 games.
His goals-per-game tally is third in the League at .55 behind Kane (.56) and Ovechkin (.67). Marchand has also helped to create more than a third of Boston’s goals this season. His .38 goals-created-per-game ranks in the top-10 with Kane setting the pace at .51.
Perhaps the most staggering number is just how much the Bruins rely on their 5’9 forward to score. When Marchand has put his name on the scoresheet for Boston this season, Claude Julien’s troops are 17-4-3 compared to the 13-16-3 mark they have when he doesn’t score a goal in a game. In comparison, Chicago has gone 16-12-2 when Kane doesn’t record a goal and Washington is 16-5-4 when their captain is held off the scoresheet.
Needless to say, the Bruins are a completely different animal when their diminutive winger doesn’t score. Imagine where they would be without his 28 goals this season. We’re probably sitting here talking about a chance at drafting Auston Matthews rather than the playoffs.
If there’s one other legitimate argument that Marchand has against the rest of the field, it’s his ability to play in all situations. A quick glance at the NHL.com stats page shows that the Nova Scotia native has significantly more ice time shorthanded than any other player whom we can consider as a Hart Trophy finalist.
Marchand has 105 minutes of shorthanded time-on-ice this season. Kane and Ovechkin have combined for a grand total of just 3:37. Furthermore, Marchand is second in the League with four of six Boston’s shorthanded goals this season. Throw in five goals on the power play and 19 more at even strength and it’s a testament to how comfortable Julien is with playing him in any situation.
Can Barry Trotz say the same about Ovechkin? Or Joel Quenneville and Kane? Probably not.
Can Marchand Really Be A Finalist?
Ask anyone around the League and they’ll probably tell you Kane has the award gift-wrapped waiting for him in Las Vegas in June.
They’re probably right, but that’s four months away. There’s no doubt Kane and Ovechkin have been integral parts in guiding their respective teams to the top of the League standings and have playoff berths virtually assured with two months of the season left.
However, Marchand and the Bruins still have plenty of work left to do to punch their ticket into the postseason party. Boston sits just two points above the dividing line in the highly competitive Eastern Conference and will need their leading goal-scorer to continue his white-hot form to gain some much needed separation from the rest of the pack.
Brad Marchand- never thought I would say this, but he's Boston's MVP this season.
— Kirk Luedeke (@kluedeke29) February 12, 2016
If Marchand can maintain the sniper’s touch and carry the club on his back to the postseason, hockey writers should take notice. Boston’s homegrown talent has a realistic chance of being the club’s first 40-goal scorer since Bill Guerin tallied 41 in 2001-02. However, the real question is whether that will be enough to give the Bruins, in the words of play-by-play man Jack Edwards, “a snowball’s chance” to play for the Stanley Cup.
Marchand’s incredible feat of 13 goals in his last 13 games has placed him among the goal-scoring elite this season. It’s hard to ignore how vital he’s been to Boston’s push for the playoffs. If the Hart Trophy is supposed to go to the player who’s most valuable to his team, Marchand is worthy of significant consideration.
One of Boston’s shortest players is making massive contributions to this year’s bunch. It’s time for the rest of the League to take notice.