BOSTON (CBS) – Just when we thought he was out, he fell back in.
Brad Marchand had seemingly conquered his early-season demons and started to play like “Brad the Good Brat” the past several games for the Bruins – that is prior to the 4-1 win against Carolina on Monday night.
In a game that saw the Bruins play excellent hockey for a little more than 40 minutes, which is a typical performance by them so far this season, Marchand was dropped in the lineup by coach Claude Julien during the third period.
While Jordan Caron slotted next to Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson, Marchand skated a few shifts with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. It’s no coincidence that Julien made this move not long after Marchand made two giveaways along the wall in the Boston end, where he looked like he was posing with the puck for a hockey-card picture rather than trying to clear the puck. Dennis Seidenberg wound up taking a slashing penalty at the end of the sequence to stop the Hurricanes’ pressure.
There’s only one problem with this lineup shuffling when it comes to trying to send a message to someone who’s supposed to be one of your best players. As everyone around hockey will tell you, the Bruins roster is filled with excellent players. Whether you put Marchand on Campbell’s line or Chris Kelly’s line, it’s not a punishment.
Considering that you can count the games Marchand has been effective on one hand and the Bruins are right around the quarter pole of their season, it’s time for Julien to do something that will really open up Marchand’s eyes: scratch him.
If Marchand’s lack of scoring (3-4-7 in 20 games) was the only thing holding the Bruins back, you could live giving him some more rope. But his inability to consistently make sound decisions with the puck and his willingness to protect it both prevents him from scoring and wastes the efforts of his linemates at both ends of the ice. He’s also not playing as responsibly in his own end as he has in the past.
During training camp, Marchand said he might change his game a bit, meaning he’s scaled back his trash talk and agitating. Instead he’s changed his game to the point where he looks like he thinks he’ll get style points for his plays.
The Bruins finish their three-game road trip Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. Shawn Thornton has to go back into the lineup after getting Monday night off. The reflex would be to pull Caron back out and insert Thornton. Caron looked rusty at the start against the Hurricanes, but seemed to get better as the game went on. And who wouldn’t look good playing with Bergeron and Eriksson? Well, other than the current version of Marchand.
In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Julien waited until the stretch run to scratch Milan Lucic. That moved paid off in a monster postseason performance for Lucic. Julien could afford to keep going with Marchand now because despite some lackluster play the Bruins are winning a lot more than they’re losing and they’re within a hair of first place in their division. But the Bruins aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup with Marchand playing this way. And in their difficult division, the race for the playoffs is going to be tighter, especially once the Bruins do hit an inevitable rough patch. Getting Marchand right as soon as possible should be priority one right now, especially with the Kelly line playing so well. The Bruins’ depth is shining, except for Marchand.
Madison Square Garden underwent more renovations over the summer, including the installation of the Chase Bridge for fans to get a unique vantage point of the action. It’s about time Marchand had a unique view of a Bruins game, and sat one or more out until he gets his act together.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.