Marchand takes it to another level

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Marchand takes it to another level

As audacious and bold as he can be while rousing the rabble on the ice, Brad Marchand never allowed himself to dream hed collect a hat trick in an NHL game.

Sure the Nose Face Killah had finished off 21 goals in his rookie season, and he had himself a career-making postseason performance on the way to Stanley Cup glory. But Marchand has taken another quantum jump forward in his second NHL season, and didn't even need Scott Bakula to accomplish it. Marchand snapped off three goals, a career-high five points and finished with a gaudy plus-5 in Bostons 8-0 skinning of the Florida Panthers Friday night, and added another chapter in what's become an increasingly surprising career in Boston.

The most amazing part: Marchand managed to pack all of that action into just12:48 of ice time in the blowout victory. That is what you'd call an action-packed evening of hockey.

Hes good at finding the puck around the net, and also finding ways to put the puck in. Hes pretty resilient, too at just finding ways to score, said Patrice Bergeron. Right now hes playing really well, and you cant ask more than four goals in two games, can you? Its great for him to see that, and hopefully he can stay like that.

It was Marchands first career hat trick, obviously, and it was a nice little collection of the items inthe left wingers tool box: tenacity, skill and a willingness to push the envelope all wrapped up into a single evenings performance. The three scores also pushed Marchand into the team lead with 15 goals on the season, and placed him right on a pace for more than 30 goals this year.That's the official line that turns a hockey player from nice offensive piece into a bone fide goal-scoring force, and it looks like Marchand is headed there just as Milan Lucic went there last season.

Rather than thumping his chest while wearing a Nose Face Killah t-shirt or taking all the credit in the postgame dressing room, Marchand spread out some love among his teammates in a season thats looking every bit as special as his rookie campaign.

I think Ive just been fortunate enough to play with great players and I just kind of feed off them and get some lucky goals, said Marchand, who did manage to work in that his "Nose Face Killah" t-shirts are being sold on the street. I never expected to be in that position and I dont expect to be there long. But its a lot of fun being on this team and being in the winning ways right now, so hopefully it keeps going.

In true catalyst fashion Marchand got the ball rolling in the blowout win with an early shorthanded goal that knocked the Panthers right off their pegs. The Bruins coaches wanted Boston to overwhelm a physically exhausted Florida crew right off the opening puck drop, and Marchand was like a solitary energizer bunny.

The 23-year-old penalty killing dervish carried the puck through the entire Florida power play unit after receiving the Bergeron dish, and flipped a quick shot Jose Theodore before the Florida goaltender knew what was happening. It was Marchands first shorthanded goal this season after he led the Bruins with fiveshort-handed goals last year.

The Bs agitator was able to relax and watch as his teammates popped in five unanswered goals after his first strike, but then Marchand started cooking things up again in the third period.

He got a gift on his opening shift of the third period when a pass toward Bergeron at the goal mouth took a fortunate bounce off a skateand got behind Scott Clemmensen. With two goals and nearly an entire third period to play, the hat trick watch was on. Even Marchand and his linemates were talking about it onthe uber-confident Boston bench as the minutes melted away.

We were on the bench before our shift and Seguin was like, Be ready, if I get any pucks in the slot, Im giving it to you, said Marchand. So when he got it I knew it was coming over to me. I just put it in the open net.Seguina and Marchand took care of the final piece of the hat trick with some nice give-and-go passing that ended with the B's winger snapping a shot off top shelf over Clemmensen.

The best part about Marchands evening: there werent any bad brat moments to take away from his turn as an offensive force. Instead Marchand and Co. pounded away at the Florida defense with 11 total shots on net for his forward line, and the agitator stayed out of the fray.Rather thantaking penalties or spinning out of control, Marchand was making the Panthers pay with his shorthanded derring-do.

To Marchands coach thats a sign of maturity in the players game that goes beyond the obvious production on the ice.

The experience is whats taking over right now. Im not going to hide the fact that there are still some things we deal with whether its a weekly basis or a daily basis, said Claude Julien. Hes a real emotional individual and sometimes he just gets himself all wound up. You have to point him down a little bit. But, I think hes done a good job of dealing with that.

Whenever he does kind of get wound up you just kind of grab him and touch him by the shoulder and he gets it now. Thats what makes him a good player. Ive said it many times: as long as he doesnt cross that line then hes good at it. I think hes got to play with emotion to be successful, and I think hes learning to do that more. His experience from last year to this year has really helped him.

So what does Marchand do for an encore after Julien has given him the all-too familiar tap on the shoulder?

How about helping Patrice Bergeron become the final member of their line to register a hat trick after Marchands three goals against Florida and Seguins memorable hat trick in Toronto earlier this season?

Thats the kind of mission a good teammate would gladly accept moving forward this year, and one that the Marchandwill no doubt embrace after "Nose Face Killing" the Panthers.

May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

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May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving everybody a 24-hour reprieve from any Game of Thrones spoilers.

 

*Good to see FOH (Friend of Haggs) Nick Cotsonika back with a byline covering the NHL: here he writes about Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop with some thoughts from Martin Brodeur.

 

*David Backes got the ultimate birthday present when he snapped home a game-winning overtime goal for the Blues.

 

*Boston boy Rick DiPietro is working without a net as an analyst for the New York Islanders now that his goaltending career has come to a close.

 

*Jaromir Jagr was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for his decades’ long dedication to the game of hockey.

 

*Brooks Orpik is suspended three games for his head shot on Olli Maatta, and it’s a bit ironic it happens against the Pittsburgh Penguins team he spent plenty of years throwing predator hits for prior to joining Washington.

 

*Damien Cox has a mock NHL Draft now that the top 14 lottery picks have been set in stone following last weekend.

 

*Martin Jones is standing tall for the San Jose Sharks, and proving to be a difference-maker in his first season for them between the pipes.

 

*For something completely different: as the father of a newborn baby girl, I read about this Zika virus and find it absolutely terrifying and tragic.

Are they on a crash course?

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Are they on a crash course?

This is the first in a five-part “Rebuilding the Bruins” series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction.

In many ways, this offseason is shaping up as a typical one for the Boston Bruins. There'll be roster fixes -- like last year's Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton trades on NHL draft weekend -- that they hope will result in upgrades and improvements. They'll work with their prospects and draft picks, looking for maturation and development . Hopefully, they'll work toward building a greater level of accountability and urgency among the core players, most of whom are expected to return.

And it some ways it's atypical. The heat is most definitely on president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney after a second consecutive late-season collapse left the Bruins -- again -- one point shy of the postseason. Ownership clearly expects better, and has made its "expectations" clear.

The question is: Are Neely and Sweeney doing what needs to be done to get the franchise back on track?

“If people were to ask ‘Who is head of hockey operations?’, it’s a collaborative effort between a number of people,” said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. “But if you ask for one sort of name, I would say it’s Cam Neely. I’m fairly certain my father" -- team owner Jeremy Jacobs -- "would share that sentiment.

"I just want to clarify. . . about investing in our team. It’s something that we continually do. We had leveraged our future (in recent years in an attempt to win immediately) to the point where something had to change last summer. We made the change and we’re righting the ledger, if you will, by stocking our team back up with prospects with the ability for cap flexibility to make the proper moves moving forward.

“We will always invest in this team. I think now we’re back on the right side of the ledger. We have an opportunity in front of us to move forward. We are a cap team and there should be expectations in an Original Six market that we continue to be a playoff contender and, frankly, a Stanley Cup contender. Given the mix of talent that we currently have on the roster and the youth that’s coming in, Cam’s aware of those expectations, as is Don.”

Those expectations underscore how much work there is to be done for a middling hockey club with some valuable individual pieces -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, David Pastrnak -- but far too many weaknesses that can be easily exploited by the better teams around the NHL.

The reality is, the Bruins are stuck in the mediocre middle right now . . . and that's a bad place to be. They're picking at No. 14 again, where the truly game-changing type of young player that Boston needs isn't available. In addition, the Bruins won’t be a true Stanley Cup contender again until they have a No. 1 defenseman in the 25-to-33-years-old range capable of playing 30 quality minutes per night over a long, two-month postseason run. They could also use a big, strong right winger with top-6 offensive potential. And they need to come up with an adequate backup goalie for Tuukka Rask.

That's a lot of work for Sweeney in one offseason.

“We just need to continue to get better, you know?” said Sweeney. “This is a performance-driven business and we’re going to be held to that standard and you know we fell short. We do believe that we should have [been in the playoffs]. That's not disparaging against the eight teams that [started the playoffs in the East] . . . [those] that are there they deserve it, and we fell just short of that. I still believe that we had a strong enough group to get in and challenge there. Then you just wait and see what happens.

"But we fell short in that and I take ownership of it. It’s on me; it’s not on anybody else to continue to improve our roster. That’s on me.”

Many around the league use terms like “half-pregnant” when describing the Bruins. Last season the B's had one foot pointed toward a rebuild and the other foot pointed toward competing for a playoff spot. In the end, they accomplished neither. Clearly, they were good enough to be in the playoffs -- the seventh-best goal differential in the East, a top-five offense and well above-average special teams’ play was enough to offset their shaky defense -- but Sweeney has to realize that even they'd made it they were destined to go out in the first round . . .which was the fate of the Red Wings and Flyers, the teams they were battling for one of the final two postseason spots in the East.

And that raises a deeper question: Is this current plan of action in the best long-term interest of the Bruins?

The front office's failings at the trade deadline are a prime example. Rather than face reality -- that even if they'd made the playoffs, they weren't going beyond one round -- the Bruins instead:

a) Shipped out future draft picks for marginal veteran upgrades in Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles.

b) Held onto unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Loui Eriksson, who was having his best season in a Boston uniform and might have fetched valuable long-term assets in a trade. That option no longer exists with Eriksson now on his way out the door.

Neely and Sweeney might argue that it’s pure media-driven hindsight to criticize those trade-deadline moves, which now look especially bad since the team failed to qualify for the postseason, but it's their jobs to shape the team’s future. It should have been very clear to both that the Bruins didn’t have the right stuff to make any kind of a playoff run. Playing and developing their promising young players down the stretch should have been the priority, but, frankly, that never felt like the case after Sweeney's band-aid trades for veteran rentals.

This was never more evident than when the Bruins flew Frank Vatrano cross-country on emergency recall at the start of the season-changing California road trip in late March, sat him for the loss to the San Jose Sharks, and then flew him back to Providence without having played a game. The emergency recall made little sense, especially considering how they could have used Vatrano’s scoring touch.

That simple fact was hammered home when the Bruins did come to their senses shortly afterward and recalled Vatrano, along with fellow prospect Colin Miller, for the final few pivotal games of the season. Both of those talented players should have been gaining that playoff-stretch experience in Boston all along. And who knows? They might have even provided the one extra point that ultimately cost them the playoff spot they so coveted.

Cultivating the next generation of Bruins talent is what will once again get them closer to their stated goal of Stanely Cup contention. (They’ll also need to get lucky with a top-pairing defenseman, or two, dropping into their lap along the way, of course.) But they'll be doomed to repeat the uninspired work of the last two seasons if they keep sailing the same course.

The Bruins need clarity in direction at the top of the organizational food chain. They need to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing.

The question is whether the Bruins want a nice, little playoff team or a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and whether they have the temerity and the discipline to make certain it’s the latter rather than the former. Bruins management needs to start making hard, unpopular choices if it doesn't want the listless history of the last two years to continue repeating itself.

 

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.