BOSTON (CBS) — If you’re the type of Bruins observer who’s always looking for the silver lining, you could spin Brad Marchand’s current predicament in a way that makes the gold in the black and gold shine brighter.
With one shot on net against the New York Islanders in the Bruins’ loss Saturday night, Marchand exceeded by one his shot total for his prior three games. And with one goal through the Bruins’ first 13 games this season, Marchand has scored once more than he did in six games in the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago last June.
Of course, if you want to sanitize Marchand’s putrid performances this season, you’re not doing him any favors. And luckily for the speedy winger and the Bruins, coach Claude Julien obviously doesn’t intend to pull punches when it comes to critiquing a player who started a four-year, $18 million contract this season.
“Just that he’s not playing the way he should. There’s nothing coming out of his game right now,” Julien said in a response to a question about his concerns for Marchand. “You know you look at shots … he’s really struggling to find his game. Sometimes you’ve just got to work your way through it. Brad is a good skater. I don’t think he’s skating as well as he can. He’s obviously much better with the puck, at managing it. He hasn’t been great at that either. I think a lot of that is a result of frustration and putting a lot of pressure on himself. It’s not making it any easier. So he’s got to go back to square one. Possibly just kind of simplify his game and rely on his work ethic and his compete level. And I think things will come back.”
In 13 games, Marchand is fifth among Bruins forwards with 15:13 of ice time per game. But he’s landed just 15 shots on net. And you could probably count on one hand how many of those shots came from areas that would be deemed dangerous in terms of likelihood of scoring and probability of getting hit. Even though he was a 28-goal scorer in 2011-12 and he was on pace for more last season had the NHL played a full 82 games, Marchand harkened back to his rookie season when asked after practice Monday about getting to the net more.
“I think if I look at my first year, it was probably my best year, I think, overall,” Marchand said. “I know I had more points my second year and on pace for more in my third year, but I think my first year was probably my best. And it’s because I was all around the net and a lot of my goals came from that area. So I’m trying to get back to doing that.”
That season, Marchand worked his way up from fourth-liner to second-liner in a matter of months. Ever since then, it hasn’t taken much to remind him to continue his fourth-line mentality when he’s strayed and fancied up his play, typically to lesser production. A move to Chris Kelly’s line this season did little to spark Marchand, and Loui Eriksson’s injury limited Julien’s options for lineup changes. For a few games, Marchand’s been back with his longtime running mate Patrice Bergeron.
With Eriksson coming back, perhaps a night in the press box – a la Milan Lucic late last season – would do Marchand some benefit. Julien said he’s going day-to-day in terms of his lineup and attempts to rattle Marchand’s cage.
If the coach is already declaring publicly that Marchand’s game is giving the team nothing, a turnaround better be in the offing or there might be some drastic measures taken. Typically Julien lauds his players’ hustle and the chances they’re getting even when their scoring droughts go on for weeks. Of course, typically there is something to like about a slumping player’s game. With Marchand there really is nothing there, right now.
Maybe the messages coming from the coaching staff will take hold this week. A visit from Marchand’s shirtless partying buddy Tyler Seguin on Tuesday should raise the atmosphere to playoff level at TD Garden, and maybe a fire will be lit under the “little ball of hate” turned “little empty bag.”
Or instead he could wind up with a little bag of popcorn in his hand on the sidelines.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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