Marchand feeling pressure, looking to add spark

560060.jpg

Marchand feeling pressure, looking to add spark

WILMINGTON Brad Marchand knows he can be better, and it looks like hes starting to realize just how he can do it.

The pesky little winger that could got off to a good start to the season when he managed four points in the first five games of the season, but Marchand has gone ice cold along with the rest of the team over the last two weeks.

Marchand has been held scoreless with a minus-2 in his last six games, and hasnt been much of a factor in the agitating category aside from the second period spectacle against P.K. Subban last week at the Garden. So Marchand knows he needs to get better along with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin skating with him on the gold line, and thats as big a part of the Bruins resurgence as anything else.

Marchand potted 21 goals for the Bruins during the regular season and was legitimate force in the postseason, and that means he has plenty to live up to this season. Right now hes on pace for 16 goals and 33 points just 10 games into the season, and that would be a step down from his breakthrough rookie campaign.

Its more frustrating when youre not producing and youre losing because you know you might be able to make a difference, said Marchand. The more we lose and Im not producing Im feeling some pressure. I just want to be able to help this team win, and Im not doing my job.

Theres a little more pressure on me this year to do certain things and to play a certain way. Obviously I want to live up to the reputation, and produce to help my team win.

So much of the emotion and tone of the Black and Gold is generated and regulated by Marchand and his much bigger cohort Milan Lucic, and they have seemingly been on opposite ends of the spectrum this season. Marchand started off hot as a pistol with points and a frenetic pace on the ice while Lucic slumped with his skates seemingly locked in quicksand. Now Lucic has picked up the pace with goals in each of his last three games and his current spot as the second-leading scorer on the Bruins behind Tyler Seguin in the Bs 10 games this year.

But Marchand has slacked off, and that needs to change. The Bruins are a better, more driven team when both emotional touchstone players are firing off close to full efficiency, and thats what the Bruins will need Tuesday night when they face off against the red-hot Ottawa Senators at the Garden.

Ive been trying to kind of stay away from doing too much of the agitating stuff this year, and just worry about playing, said Marchand. But I think Im going to have to get back to it, so Im kind of playing the way I did last year. Well see how it goes because theres a fine line to doing it.

There are always points in games where you can do something to help. But the refs are watching me very closely right now and I dont want to hurt the team with a costly penalty. Theyre going to call it closer than they might have in the past. Its a fine line while Im trying to figure out how they call it.

Claude Julien was quick to credit Subban for getting under the skin of the Bruins on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, and said that was something Marchand did last season for the Bs as if it was in the past tense. It was a legitimate statement, but it also seemed to be a subtext message from the coach that it was time for Marchand to start stirring things up and getting the Bruins worked up into a frenzied state of mind.

The controlled aggression and anger is when the Bruins are most effective, and Marchand holds part of the key to getting them there.

Now its up to Marchand to figure when and how he can get back to that pesky irritant role that he performs so well, and help the Bs get exactly where they need to be.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.