Brad Marchand was saying all of the right things as he sat at his locker stall on Friday afternoon.
The Bruins agitator had just finished a surprising practice session at TD Garden that saw Claude Julien mix up his forward lines like a dealer shuffling cards at Twin Rivers Casino. The alterations were eyebrow-raising to just everyone. They alsosent a resounding message to the Nose Face Killah that it was time to step up his production and intensity level.
The Bs coach dropped Marchand onto the fourth line where it all began for the 5-foot-8 winger as a rookie last season, and had him skating with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Super sophomore Tyler Seguin is scoreless in his last 15 NHL playoff games, and found himself dropped to the third line as wellwith Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly.
Julien, Marchand and his teammates were all noncommittal when asked if they expected these new-look forward lines to last heading into Game 5 at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon. But seeing a staple on one of the B's top lines from all season donning a Merlot fourth line practice sweater clearly meant a coaching message was at work.
But it's an important message from Julien. The top six forwards willbear the playoff blame unless they'reable to scratch and grind their way to some offense. So a kick in the pants might be exactly what the doctor ordered for a group of talented young Bruins players that have been satisfied with a comfortable game during the playoffs against a surprisingly ruggedWashington team .
But the Bs agitator also answered in the affirmative when asked whether a move to the fourth line a place he hasnt skated on since the middle of last season when he was firstbumped up next to Patrice Bergeron was the coaching staff sending a clearmessage his way after weeks of inconsistent offensive performance.Was the coach sending a message to his rabble-rousing winger?
A little bit, but its up to me to respond. I know Ive got to be better and I know that. Its on me to step up and bring the game that I can., said Marchand. Ive played with Soupy Gregory Campbell and Thorty Shawn Thornton last year and we played really well together and hopefully we can bring that intensity. We were pretty offensive last year too so hopefully we can bring that as well.
Marchand had 28 goals on the season while finishing second in the goal-scoring racefor the Bruins, but hes managed only eight shots on net during the four playoff games against the Washington Capitals. Of course, Marchand finished behind Seguin who is similarly scoreless during the postseason thus far.But that's a story for another day.The Little Ball of Hate is one of Bostons most fearless and dogged forwards when it comes to sacrificing a little pain and discomfort whileventuring to the front of the painted area in the offensive zone. But he hasn't done much of it during these playoffs. "It's a part of trying to find solutions and its as simple as that. Youve got to mix up guys who are not getting the results that wed like to," said Claude Julien. "So, youre trying to make changes that will maybe spark that part of our game."
This was always the time of year in Bruins' season pastwhen Mark Recchi would talk about players getting out of their comfort zone or doing things that might not necessarily feel good when the playoffs arrive. It's something theBruins havent done enough of it in their first year without Rex during the playoffs.Marchand and Lucic are the most egregious examples of it given their skill set and willingness to grind, and it's time for both prime time forwards to get their signature noses into the danger areas on the ice.
Julien pointed to the goals by Daniel Paille and Brian Rolstonfrom their Game 3 win over the Capitals as exactly what the Bruins should be doing againsta willing and capabledefensive lineup. Paille and Rolston both battled for position in front of the net, and the goals were there when they scroungedfor the rebounds or reached out to tip a puck in front of the cage.
Thats the pathway for Marchand to get back to his linemates - and top six forward glory -after Julien played crazy mad scientist with the forward lines. Its alsothe blueprint Marchand needs to follow for effectivenessin the playoffs and the reminder Julien has attempting to bestow with a practice reminder of his humble beginnings prior to an important Game 4 showdown.