Marchand looking for more from within

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Marchand looking for more from within

BOSTON -- Its easy for Brad Marchand to recall precious moments about his breakout rookie year and subsequent impactful playoff performance, but those very fine moments come with a cost.

With exceptional seasons come great expectations from the sandpaper-and-skill game Marchand always featured, and there is a certain cachet that arrives with the 20-goal scorer tag at the NHL level. Marchands 21 goals and 41 points now become measuring marks for this season and beyond.

Thats just the way it is in sports.

Its Brad in a nutshell: hes hard on himself and he has very high expectations, said coach Claude Julien. I have to make players understand that its not all about the score sheets. Its about what youre bringing to the table every night and whether youre competing hard doing the right things. A lot of guys are getting better in that area, so lets keep encouraging them.

Still, the five points (2 goals and 3 assists) in his first 11 games this season havent been up to his new Marchand standards, and the six-game scoreless span prior to notching an assist against the Senators certainly werent what he was looking for.

Ive always put a lot of pressure on myself. You do it even more when the team is losing more than usual, said Marchand. You want to find a way to help the team win. I need to be able to produce more.

But perspective is a funny thing for Marchand.

Last seasons run was magical, productive and ended with the ultimate reward but the little Bs spark plug also didnt collect his first goal until November last season while starting off skating with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. In fact Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Marchands first NHL goal scored in a two-point performance that helped the Bs take down the Buffalo Sabres.

So Marchand is actually well ahead of his pace from last season, and it would appear the sky is the limit while skating with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin on a line that doesnt appear to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Thats what I told him, said Julien. I said, How many goals did you have at this point last year? and he said, One. So then whats the problem? We all know hes capable of having even better numbers, but I think in the first game against Philadelphia he had about five unbelievable chances. He just didnt bury them.

There is a lot of truth to the number of Grade A chances missed and posts rung for Marchand in the early going this year, and the similarity to the beginning of last years playoff run when the winger enjoyed a multitude of quality scoring chances against the Canadiens that went unrewarded patience.

Eventually shots fell for Marchand in a playoff run that had him put up 11 goals and 19 points in the 25 postseason games, and practically take over the Stanley Cup Finals at points last spring. So everybody, including Marchand, knows that its in there and its a matter of it turning chance into production.

Hes no different than anybody else where hes getting good chances around the net, but hes having trouble finishing around the net, said Julien. Getting frustrated by that just makes your game even worse. I told him to just focus on playing the game and eventually things will start going his way.

I keep saying the same thing: frustration just sinks you. Youve got to stay away from that. To me a guy that has opportunities cant be playing that badly, and a guy thats not getting opportunities has to start saying what am I doing wrong?

But the left winger is also playing significantly more minutes than he did last season, nothing power play time and being put into a significantly higher position of visibility than he did while opening eyes as a first year player.

I have a lot more points this year than I did at this point last year, admitted Marchand. But Im in a different position. I should be producing more than I am and Ive had my opportunities. You can look at it in that way that Im in a better position figuratively, but Im playing power play and probably playing twice as much in ice time. Im being looked at to produce, and hopefully things start going in for me.

So the stage is bigger, Marchands expectations are bigger for his own game, and that means the pressure he puts on himself is certainly coming down on him with a much greater magnitude. Add in the scrutiny hes getting from referees taking a much closer look at his after-the-whistle activity, and he would seem to be a player looking to ease off the agitator role hes renowned for.

Marchand admits that hes gone away from his rabble-rousing act at times this season, but his coach thinks its something hell never get that far away from because its in his blood.

Marchand will always be an agitator. Its in his blood and its always been there, said Julien. Hes trying to control things so that he doesnt get labeled as a guy the refs are looking for to call him for every little thing. But hell always be in peoples faces and what he wants to do is contribute a little bit more. He knows what he is and what he wants to be.

Marchand also knows that generating offense is in his blood, and both facets of his game need to keep churning if the Bruins are going to continue climbing out of the Eastern basement.

Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

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Backes doesn't back down from criticism of those who ripped Team USA

BRIGHTON -- He may not get the chance, since he's now 32 and has thrown (and taken) plenty of hits during his 11-year NHL career, but new Bruin David Backes said he hopes to play for Team USA again to “have a nice taste in my mouth”.

Clearly, his last experience left a bad taste: The Americans finished dead last in the World Cup of Hockey, which is winding down now with Team Europe and Team Canada playing for the championship.

What also left a bad taste for Backes were the passive-aggressive Tweets sent out by U.S.-born players like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan after the Americans lost all three games they played in the World Cup. And he isn't about to back down from the pointed criticism he directed at them.

“I was one of the guys called upon to go to the rink on a day off after we were eliminated . . . . one of four to stand up and answer the questions,” said Backes, who certainly showed his personal accountability by showing up to answer questions after Team USA had flopped on the world stage. “Rather than defer and plead the Fifth, I thought it was something we needed to address. I think it’s easy to sit back and sling mud . . . when you’re not a part of it.

“[You can] kind of make yourself feel good about it (by criticizing Team USA) for a second, but if I wasn’t selected for the team, or if I’m not selected to the Olympic team in two years, I’m still American, I’ve still worn that jersey, and I’m going to root for those guys and hope everything goes well. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be crushed like I was on the team. That’s how I think as a team guy and as a guy that’s worn that jersey proudly and how much it means to me.

"I just hope and wish the other guys had those same feelings. If you’ve got some vindication not being on the team, and the team failing or not accomplishing the goal, then you should internalize that and use it as motivation going forward. You don’t need to join in with the chatter that’s negative and keeps piling on. Those are my visceral thoughts on the subject.”

Backes was a healthy scratch for Team USA’s final game against the Czech Republic, a listless defeat that dropped the U.S. to the bottom of the World Cup standings. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a competitor who clearly understands the importance of representing one’s country.

So it’s no surprise the Bruins center hopes he gets a chance to redeem himself by making the 2018 Winter Olympics team. Backes has skated for the U.S. in each of the last two Olympics.

“I hope (the World Cup isn't the last time I play for my country), but that’s out of my control,” said Backes. “If my services seem like I can help a team be successful, I’d love to put that jersey on and have a nice taste in my mouth for the last time I use it, or the next time I use it. But there are a lot of great players that are Americans, and the next GM, or whoever it is constructing the team, will have decisions to make. Whoever they pick, I hope [the team] goes and puts us back on top of the pedestal for whatever competition it is.”

Clearly the Bruins hope that as well, since it would be a clear indicator Backes is performing at an elite level a couple of seasons into his five-year, big-money contract with Boston.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

PROFILE: Joe Haggerty's preseason look at Brad Marchand

The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.