WILMINGTON – On the ice, Brad Marchand is known as much for his jabbering as he is for his goal-scoring prowess, speed and penalty-killing.
When he steps out of the rink, Marchand is just as jovial and social.
There’s one type of talking, however, he’d like less of. Once the Bruins’ coaches and Marchand’s teammates finally get to stop telling him that things will get better, he’ll know he’s out of his early-season morass.
“I mean everyone kind of helps. Everyone’s there for support and everyone’s trying to help you out,” Marchand told CBSBoston.com about his off-ice support system after practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena. “The coaches talk to me a lot, pretty much every day, and try to help me out. And different guys pull me off to the side and say ‘stick with it.’ Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] talked to me a lot. We’ve been through a lot together and he’s been really good. So it’s great to have a team that we do and stick up for each other and help each other out.”
Marchand’s season-long stats through two months are still a little difficult to look at. In 27 games, he’s scored four goals and 12 points. However, he has four points (one goal) in his past four games, including that one-goal, one-assist performance against the New York Rangers on Black Friday.
More importantly, when he and his line haven’t scored, Marchand, Loui Eriksson and Bergeron are making things happen. They’re finally forechecking the way the Bruins expect and doing the little things to draw penalties and keep the opposition hemmed in its own zone.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m definitely feeling better out there,” Marchand said. “Four points my last four games. I feel my legs are feeling better and I’m definitely turning a corner and feeling a bit better. But I still got to get better.”
Over the summer and during training camp, Marchand tried out some new sticks that just didn’t work out for him. He’s since returned to the sticks that helped him score at a 30-plus-goal pace during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Regardless of which type of stick he’s used, Marchand has wasted a few more in frustration during the first two months of this season than in past years. That’s the best way sometimes to blow off steam when the talking-tos aren’t helping.
“That’s normally how I grew up doing it. My dad always taught me, you don’t blame it on yourself, you blame it on the stick,” he said.
In addition to chats, Bruins coach Claude Julien has tried other ways to get Marchand going. He dropped the left wing to Chris Kelly’s line for a stretch earlier in the season and sent Marchand to the Merlot Line a couple of times as well. But the coach never went the healthy-scratch route with Marchand despite suggestions from outside sources, including this space, that he should come down hard on Marchand. The 25-year-old says he has to “thank” Julien for the coach’s patience.
As for the threat of a healthy scratch, Marchand admitted it resonated in at least a tiny part of his mind.
“Maybe [I thought about it]. I mean I wasn’t really, that wasn’t really in my mind too much,” Marchand said. “It’s just more about the process. If that was to be part of it, then that’s fine. That’s their decision. I just got to go with it and take it as you go.”
When Julien scratched Milan Lucic last season, he did it in a 48-game schedule in the midst of a battle for playoff position and with the playoffs right around the corner. With Marchand, Julien has had the luxury of the long haul to let the player work out of his own funk. A few more productive nights consistent with what’s come in recent games — with some big showdowns against Montreal, Pittsburgh and Toronto looming on the schedule — could be proof Marchand is out of his slump.
When you figure that Marchand’s struggles, a few other players’ slow starts and some injuries haven’t kept the Bruins from first place in the Eastern Conference, your mouth might water at the thought of a productive Marchand contributing to the cause.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.