By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you never expected Brad Marchand to grace an All-Star roster, you’re not alone. The Little Ball of Hate™ himself never thought it would happen.
Marchand, along with teammate Tuukka Rask, will play in his first NHL All-Star Game as a representative of the Atlantic Division squad on Jan. 29 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It’s the first All-Star selection of Marchand’s career after finishing fifth in voting among left wingers last season.
Marchand has emerged as an offensive force for the Bruins in 2016-17 with 35 points, which has him tied for 19th in the league with All-Star teammate Auston Matthews. He only trails Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (39 points) and Victor Hedman (37 points) for the most points among Atlantic Division players.
After spending so much of his early career as an agitator with some occasional flashes of skill, Marchand’s scoring touch has greatly improved in the past two seasons while the dirtier aspects of his game have largely gone away. The winger wasn’t exactly viewed as a “future All-Star” when he entered the league for the Bruins, which makes him as surprised as anyone that he made the All-Star team.
“It’s a huge honor,” Marchand told reporters on Tuesday when asked about being selected for the All-Star Game. “It’s something that I never really expected to see during my career, especially coming in.”
Whenever Marchand used to dangle with the puck early in his career, the reactions veered more toward “He shouldn’t try that.” Now, when Marchand has the puck on his stick, he has a chance to be the most electric player on the ice. The league has certainly taken notice of his offensive growth.
The only problem for Marchand is the rest of his team. The Atlantic Division has been easily the weakest in the NHL so far this season and each team still needs at least one representative, so guys like the Sabres’ Kyle Okposo (27 points), the Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck (24 points), and the Red Wings’ Frans Nielsen (22 points) are taking up spots while guys like David Pastrnak (28 points), Max Pacioretty (34 points), and James van Riemsdyk (33 points) get the snub.
In the new All-Star format, each conference’s divisions play each other in 3-on-3 semifinal games. There’s no way the Atlantic Division team has a chance to beat the Metropolitan Division, which boasts the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Evgeni Malkin. But despite the nature of the meaningless exhibition that is the All-Star Game, the new format is certainly worth watching, and Marchand will be worth cheering on in his first All-Star appearance.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.