By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If the Bruins want to win three of the next four games to get past the Senators, they’re going to need more on offense out of their top players – in particular, leading scorer Brad Marchand.
To be fair to Marchand, without him the Bruins may be down 3-0 instead of 2-1 in their opening-round playoff series against the Sens. He buried the game-winning goal near the end of the third period in Game 1 and appeared to be redeeming himself to his team after a two-game suspension ended his regular season prematurely.
Since then, Marchand has been held off the score sheet for two full games, plus two brief overtime periods. Hopefully, rock-bottom for Marchand was in Game 3, in which he generated only one shot on goal. He generally appeared tentative when he had the puck, as the Senators consistently clamped down on him and gave him little space to operate on offense.
On the whole, it’s been an uncharacteristically quiet performance for Marchand, who scored 85 points in 80 regular season games. The Bruins are going to need more production out of him moving forward – and don’t take that from me, take it from Bruce Cassidy.
The interim head coach spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s practice about the performance of the Bruins’ top-end talent so far in their opening round playoff series. He particularly spoke at length about Marchand, who has been slowed down considerably on offense since scoring the game-winner in Game 1.
To say Cassidy “called him out” would be strong. But it’s clear that he is looking for more out of his star player as the Senators have mostly defended Marchand well, meaning the winger will have to adjust and find other ways to produce.
“Brad’s a guy that his second, third, and fourth effort on the puck is well-known. I think Ottawa’s done a good job of winning pucks against him, and that’s not easy to do,” said Cassidy. “It’s what made [Marchand] very successful in this league; he’s able to protect pucks, separate. … So we’re looking for a little more of that down low.”
Cassidy also said that he and the coaching staff are encouraging Marchand to shoot the puck more when he gets his chances. Marchand broke into the offensive zone with several opportunities to fire the puck in Games 2 and 3, but often stopped and curled back to wait for teammates to join him. He’s also turned the puck over when trying to force passes instead of taking his own shots.
The coach is certainly expecting more out of Marchand on offense, and doesn’t see him being held off the score sheet much longer.
“I would expect tonight that [Marchand] will have a very good game,” said Cassidy. “It’s just who he is. I just have not seen Brad get shut down for very long this year.”
Marchand himself admitted that he, like the rest of the team, could stand to be more productive moving forward. He also credited the work of the team’s secondary lines for keeping them alive in the last two games.
“It’s not easy [to score], especially against [Ottawa],” said Marchand. “But yeah, I think we can all be a little bit better. But we have that depth scoring that’s made us a good team so far. Hopefully that continues.”
Marchand isn’t alone. Patrice Bergeron, who scored a goal and assist in the first two games of the series, was also quiet in Game 3. He was surprisingly subpar at the faceoff circle, which is typically one of his biggest strengths. He won just 44 percent of draws, mostly against the Sens’ Derick Brassard.
Cassidy ventured into slightly harsher territory when addressing the play of David Krejci, who made his series debut in Game 3 and was a minus-1 with one shot on goal. It’s worth noting that Krejci’s single shot was one of the Bruins’ best scoring chances of the game and Sens goalie Craig Anderson robbed him.
Krejci is likely working off some rust after he missed the first two games of the series. He could be ready to become the same vintage Krejci who scored 52 points in 54 playoff games from 2011-13. But Cassidy didn’t hesitate to call upon him to find the scoring touch that has twice made him the NHL’s leading scorer in the playoffs.
“No disrespect to the other guys [on the Bruins roster], they just don’t have the resume that Krejci has,” said Cassidy. “Now, at this time of year, he’s a proven big-game guy. He steps it up. … He felt better as the game wore on [in Game 3], and so I would expect he’d be even that much better for us [in Game 4], and that’s the hope.”
The relative lack of firepower from the Bruins’ top forwards has not necessarily been because of the Bruins’ depleted defense, or the Senators’ neutral zone trap. For the most part, they’ve had little trouble breaking through the neutral zone. It’s finishing the chances they’ve gotten that has been the problem – and, fair or not, that begins with Marchand.
It’s far too early to term Marchand’s last two games a “slump,” but he obviously needs to net more than just one goal if the Bruins want to have a chance to win the series. If he can’t get back to lighting the lamp in a hurry, the Bruins may not see the next round.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer 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.