Marchand turning into a shooting star this season

Marchand turning into a shooting star this season
February 22, 2013, 10:00 am
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TAMPA – If there’s one thing Brad Marchand is telling himself one month into the NHL season, it’s to shoot the puck a lot more often.

The agitating left winger scored another goal in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Tampa Times Forum on Thursday night, and it just so happened to be his team-leading ninth strike of the season. It took him all of 23 games to get to nine goals last season, but he did it nearly half the time in a season where it appears everything is going right for him.

There’s no denying the timeliness as well as the unstoppable shot through a screen to the top left corner at the end of the second period. It was Marchand’s second straight game-winning goal after he also notched the deciding marker against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Add that to the shootout goal he “blacked out” earlier this season, and Marchand has had a direct hand in more than a quarter of the games the Bruins have won thus far this season.

On the game-winning play Matt Carle had blocked the initial shot by Tyler Seguin from the left wing that got Tampa goalie Anders Lindback moving in one direction. Marchand took note when the puck took a fortuitous bounce to him, and quickly fired from the slot before anybody on the Lightning had a chance to reset themselves.

“I guess I got lucky again,” said a smirking Marchand. “To be honest I was about to go for a chance, but Bergeron made a good play to get it up to me and [Seguin] for a two-on-two at the end of our shift. It bounced to me in the slot and I don’t think the goalie really saw it at all.”

His coach saw things a little differently.

“We’ve all seen it. He’s got a pretty good shot and he’s got a quick release,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of a player that notched 28 goals last season. “A lot of times goaltenders don’t even get a chance to set up because the puck is already off of his stick. He’s a natural goal scorer.”

It was a good night overall for Marchand, who also set up Boston’s second goal with a typically dogged Nose Face Killah type of effort behind the net. The left winger wrestled the puck away from 6-foot-7 defenseman Victor Hedman and then protected possession away from both Hedman and 6-foot-3 defenseman Eric Brewer. Marchand found Patrice Bergeron cutting toward the net in the slot area, and the Bruins center fired on an easy score that put Boston up 2-0 less than four minutes into the game.

Marchand even got into it a bit with Tampa Bay rookie standout Corey Conacher at the end of the second period when the diminutive Lightning forward threw a cross-check at Zdeno Chara. It looked briefly like there was going to be a munchkin rumble between Marchand and Conacher, but instead the Bruins captain was whistled to the box for roughing.

Either way, the two goals directly produced by Marchand and the extracurricular activities showed the full range of the forward’s abilities: he’s gone from an agitating irritant to one of the team’s best players in the range of a couple of seasons.

“I remember his first year he came into my office after his rookie year and told me he was going to score a certain amount of goals the next year. He did that,” said Julien. “So as long as he keeps making those predictions and backing them up then I’m okay with that.”

The one critique Marchand has of his own game?

He’s scored nine goals this season on the strength of only 20 shots, which gives him an insane shooting percentage of 45 percent for this season. It also gives Marchand as many goals as offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Matt Moulson, and puts him in the NHL’s top 10 goal-scorers ahead of guys like Eric Staal, Marian Hossa, Pavel Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby.

Marchand obviously loves that kind of goal total, but knows that he should probably be shooting the puck a lot more often if it’s going in so much of the time.

“It’s a little weird. Maybe if I shoot a little more then I’ll score some more goals,” said Marchand. “I think it’s a little bit of luck and it means I’m not getting off a lot of shots, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. I need to shoot a little bit more, but it’s nice to find the back of the net.”

If Marchand keeps up the production and the timeliness of his goals, it won’t be long before agitator will be down on the list of job descriptions that the 24-year-old brings to the table for the Black and Gold. It will be goal-scorer, game-winner and probably shot-taker if both Marchand and the Boston coaching staff have their way with an ascending B’s force on the frozen sheet.