By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It takes a certain knack –an innate, unteachable, unlearnable –ability to regularly score shorthanded goals in the sport of hockey. Most players don’t have it, but Brad Marchand makes it look easy.READ MORE: Hurley: We Need To Have An Earnest Conversation About Tom Brady
The Bruins’ top-line winger added to his impressive total of shorthanded goals on Thursday night, and he did it in eye-popping fashion.
Early in the second period, Marchand picked up a puck near his own blue line and carried it all the way up ice on a 2-on-1 rush with Patrice Bergeron. After Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz opted to drop to the ice to break up a potential pass, Marchand displayed some serious poise to dangle around Schultz’s stick before casually drifting past a back-checking Alex Ovechkin. Netminder Ilya Samsonov tried to keep up but was largely helpless as Marchand lifted a backhander into the back of the net to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
Marchand’s face after the goal said all that needed to be said.
Brad Marchand. Shorthanded filth. pic.twitter.com/XQnbeRJdyI
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 9, 2021
It ended up being the game-winner in the 4-2 Bruins victory. The shorty was also the 30th of Marchand’s career, a nice round number for the best shorthanded goal scorers of his era.
Since Marchand’s first full season in 2010-11, he’s the NHL’s leader in shorthanded goals with his 30. The next-best shorthanded scorer is Michael Grabner, who — with 22 of them — is the only player to bury more than 20. Frans Nielsen and Andrew Cogliano are tied for third with 18 apiece, and the top five is rounded out by Bergeron and Cam Atkinson, with 16 apiece.
Marchand was already the Bruins’ all-time franchise leader in shorthanded goals, a lead that is now stretched to five over Rick Middleton’s 25.
Marchand won’t ever catch the NHL’s all-time leader, as Wayne Gretzky deposited 73 pucks into nets while his team was down a man. But in terms of this particular era — that is, after the 2004-05 lockout — he’s now tied with Marian Hossa for the most shorthanded goals in the NHL. Marchand’s done it in 56 fewer games, and at just 32 years old, he’s likely to keep adding to his total in the months and years to come.READ MORE: James White Can Still Be James White And Other Leftover Patriots Thoughts
Marchand’s 49 shorthanded points are likewise the most in the NHL since 2005, with Bergeron in second place with 42. Marchand was of course quick to give a lot of credit to his longtime linemate.
“Bergy, he’s the best defensive player in the league for the last, you know, 18 years, whatever it’s been,” Marchand said. “So he breaks up a lot of plays, turns a lot of pucks over and sends it the other way, and we just take advantage of that.”
After the win on Thursday, Marchand was asked if he had to push back against any coaches who implored him to merely clear the puck and get off the ice instead of hunting offense while shorthanded. He said that hasn’t really been the case, and he’s applied his own experience of getting stuck as a forward in a defensive situation to try to exploit certain vulnerabilities.
“It’s definitely, again, something that you learn as you go. We’ve been such a — I mean, our PK’s been one of the best penalty kills in the league for over a decade now. So when you have the defensive players that you do, you’re gonna get a lot of pucks out. A lot of pucks get flipped into the neutral zone, and when you have forward playing defense [on the opposing team], especially on the power play, guys tend to not backcheck and they’re lazy or they’re not used to playing that position,” Marchand explained. “So obviously you’re trying to be smart about the time that you attack, but any time you can attack a forward on defense, he’s uncomfortable back there. I mean, I’ve been in that position before. You don’t want to be skating backwards, you don’t want guys attacking you. So you’re just trying to take advantage of that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But part of it’s lucky bounces.”
Lucky bounces surely contribute … but the finish involved with this particular goal was a thing of mastery.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 9, 2021
Marchand said he’s always had that level of comfort with the puck around the net, but coming through like that at the NHL level is something that takes time to develop — even for him.
“I think a lot of it I’ve kind of always had, but I think the biggest thing that really separates guys from the junior levels to the American League to college to the NHL, is being able to translate it to higher speeds. I think it might have just taken me a little bit of time to be able to do it at this level,” Marchand said. “But it’s something I work a lot on too. Always trying to improve our game. I think that’s a big reason why we’re a competitive team is everyone in that room wants to get better every day, and we work towards that.”MORE NEWS: Bill Belichick Doesn't Sound Too Concerned About Right Tackle Situation
Marchand’s work has turned him from being known solely as a pest into — among other things — the best shorthanded goal scorer of his generation. With plenty of career left in him, that’s quite the feat.