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BOSTON (CBS) – He sort of flew under the radar as a rookie last season because being teammates with the No. 2 overall pick can often do that to all other first-year players.
Brad Marchand, however, left a bigger impression on the Bruins than Tyler Seguin, as he earned more ice time and reached 21 goals in the regular season before an unforgettable postseason featuring 19 points (11 goals) in 25 games during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup.
If the “sophomore jinx” was going to strike down anyone in black and gold, Marchand was the leading candidate entering this season. Prior to 2010-11, not many projected Marchand as a perennial NHL scoring machine. And his celebratory public drunkenness had some doubting Marchand’s commitment to coming back stronger for the Bruins’ title defense.
Well, Marchand has crunched the “jinx” and silenced the critics in a big way this season. With a goal in the Bruins’ 6-3 win against the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon, Marchand maintained a share of the team lead with Seguin with 27 scores. Marchand’s 53 points are 12 more than he totaled all of last season.
So has Marchand beaten that “sophomore jinx” to a pulp?
“I think so. I was never really too worried about it,” he said prior to Boston leaving for its two-game New York road trip this weekend. “I think it’s all about how you prepare for each season and I wanted to come in and have a good year and just continue to be a better player. I think a lot of guys think it’s just going to come easy. Those are the guys that can have a sophomore slump. But if you’re dedicated and you train hard, then you should be okay.”
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Although we all saw the pictures of Marchand’s partying last summer, we didn’t see the hours of off-ice work he put in during the times between the “Bruins Gone Wild” moments. Marchand arrived to training camp in solid shape, but one year after boasting to his coaches and team brass that he’d score 20 goals as a rookie, he refused to submit to requests to predict how many he’d score this season.
Well, now he’s within striking distance of 30 goals.
Despite his reluctance to chirp the media, Marchand hasn’t slowed his mouth on the ice nor lost any of the irritability that earned him his initial job in the NHL. And despite some lapses in judgment, he’s stayed out of head coach Claude Julien’s doghouse. The season has featured a suspension for low-bridging Sami Salo and a fine for slew-footing Matt Niskanen. But it’s been more than a month since Marchand’s questionable clipping penalty in Montreal, and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he got in Florida is now a few weeks old as well. Neither caused Julien to sit out Marchand or even cut the forward’s ice time.
Julien declared this week that Marchand’s “growing up,” and also pointed out that the feisty winger has had to adjust to a different set of rules now that he’s built up a reputation.
“I think the one thing that is obvious, that he kind of I guess made his bed with the way he’s played. And because of that, there’s some guys that I find they’re tough on him. Calls that would normally be called don’t necessarily get called on him, and that’s payback for making it hard on him sometimes,” Julien said. “That’s just a natural thing. I’m certainly not complaining about that, I’m stating it the way it is. And I told him that would happen. What I like about it is, he’s been able to suck it up and not complain about it and continued to play his game. I think if he continues to do that, that balance might come back and they’ll be a little bit more fair with him. He’s got to earn the respect of the referees. And when you’re a first-year player and you cross the line sometimes you, as a normal situation, you lose a little of their respect. So now he’s got to gain it back. And he knows that. I’ve been honest and clear with him about those kind of things. It’s something every player that plays his type of game has to do.”
That Marchand has combined a 30-goal pace with his rambunctious side still might not earn referees’ respect, but it should definitely instill fear in opponents. The Bruins will benefit from that in the upcoming playoffs and beyond.