BOSTON (CBS) – Bruins forward Brad Marchand was mature enough to laugh off his two missed open-net scoring chances in Game 4.
Now that the Bruins have dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in five games and advanced to face the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference second round, it’s time for Marchand to extend his maturity to other facets of his game and be the productive player the Bruins need to help dispose of the Canadiens.
Marchand did a great job of playing the rat role against the Red Wings. He clearly rattled Detroit top-pair defenseman Brendan Smith (even drawing a penalty with a wrong-legged flop) and had the Red Wings’ blood boiling so hot that even mild-mannered perennial Lady Byng contender Pavel Datsyuk took down the Bruins left winger after one whistle.
It would’ve been nice, however, if Marchand had continued his hot hand offensively against Detroit as well. Marchand scored 25 goals in the regular season, but failed to register a point against the Red Wings. Had the Bruins lost Game 4, when Marchand had looks at two open nets and instead shot like he needed a new pair of glasses, the series would still be going and there wouldn’t be any laughing from the Bruins’ dressing room.
If there was a positive to take from Marchand’s follies, other than the Bruins winning in spite of his gaffes, it was that the 25-year-old still sounded confident about his scoring.
“The last few years, there’s been a lot of good leadership, a lot of guys you can learn from when you miss opportunities,” Marchand said. “I think especially when you see a lot of top guys missing good opportunities, you see how they react, and they’re not coming off breaking their stick and snapping, they’re focused on the next opportunity. Even talking to [teammate Jarome Iginla] after the game, just how many opportunities good goal scorers miss every year. And you know you feel like you have sure goals and then you get goals when you pick those small little pockets. So hearing that from one of the best goal scorers ever, it’s relieving and you can learn a lot from that.”
The Bruins are going to need more from Marchand. They can’t rely on getting timely goals from Justin Florek, Jordan Caron or even Dougie Hamilton as the upcoming series unfolds. One way Marchand may be able to better bear down is to tone down his non-hockey act. I’m all for him finishing his checks and executing whatever tricks he needs to win battles in the corners along the walls. It’s the after-the-whistle stuff and chattering that will play right into the Canadiens’ hands if Marchand opts (and he likely will) to engage.
Coach Claude Julien says he’s fine with Marchand’s antics as long as he’s within the rules. General manager Peter Chiarelli is also willing to live with Marchand taking risks.
“I mean, he pushes the envelope,” Chiarelli said. “But that’s how he plays, and there are times he does stuff that you just think, ‘oh, Brad, you don’t have to do that.’ But I know him, I understand how he plays, I’ve seen players like that over the years, and they have to play on the edge.”
Marchand said during the Detroit series that all the extracurricular activities were a way for him to get “emotionally involved” in the games. Instead, he should take a page from teammates Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton’s books. Those guys get themselves going by finishing their checks and the thriving off the contact and the roar (or boo) of the crowd. They take part in their share of post-whistle scrums, but mostly they’re the reactors not the aggressors. Before one faceoff in Game 4 in Detroit, Marchand shoved his stick into Detroit defenseman Nicklas Kronwall and then did the same to forward Henrik Zetterberg unprovoked. The Red Wings were too shorthanded, too out of energy to give Marchand a significant response one way or the other. Montreal is fully loaded and by the time the series starts the Canadiens will be fully rested.
Regardless of who’s hot right now or how many times Montreal beat Boston in the regular season (three for those that lost count), the Bruins are the better team in this series. Marchand should act like he’s one of the better players on the better team. He should use his memories of the 2011 series win against Montreal and of the Stanley Cup championship and any other postseason highlights he wants to motivate himself. He should take the sight of the Canadiens as a reason to raise his game. He should not do anything that distracts him and the Bruins from their goal, nor should he do anything that could give the Canadiens any extra motivation to pull this upset.
In fact, if Marchand just lets his goal-scoring do his talking and skates away after every whistle, he’ll undoubtedly throw off the Canadiens, who might be using some of their time off to practice their “short guy” trash talk. They might have to use it on teammates David Desharnais and Daniel Briere if Marchand doesn’t hang around to hear the taunts.
Although video of his rabbit punches to Daniel Sedin’s face became an internet sensation, Marchand made his real mark on the 2011 postseason with 19 points in 25 games, including five goals in the Stanley Cup finals. Putting up those type of numbers should be his main focus.
A more mature Marchand should be a more productive one, and one that might even hit an open net or two against the Canadiens. And those goals might be the difference between a win and a loss.
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