Struggling Marchand may need to get back to agitating

Struggling Marchand may need to get back to agitating
October 18, 2013, 5:30 pm
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TAMPA – The early-season struggles continue for Brad Marchand as the Bruins sit midway through one of their Florida road swings this weekend.

The Nose Face Killah had a promising performance against the Red Wings earlier in the week when he was involved physically and creating scoring chances in his first full game skating with Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron. But Marchand was back to Bad Brad habits against the Florida Panthers in a choppy game played on a fairly brutal ice surface, and finished without a single shot on net in 12:09 of ice time.

That leaves the 25-year-old agitator with one point and a minus-2 in six regular season games after Claude Julien had labeled his training camp performance as “average”, and a challenge for Marchand to find his game.

“It really comes back to the player. It’s not lack of ice time or lack of anything else. It’s up to a player that just needs to find his game, and for some players it takes longer than others,” said Julien. “I thought he played a really good game against Detroit, and then last night he went back to some of his old habits that got him into trouble . . . and take him away from his game.

“I don’t want excuses. I don’t want reasons. As a coach you just want results. We can’t do everything as coaches. A player has to take charge of his situation, and that’s what Brad needs to do. He needs to find his game.”

Marchand had admitted last week that a possible 8-10 game suspension has been on his mind the last couple of years, and that he’s needed to alter his “agitator” game as a result of it. It’s clear he’s gone through stretches where his game has eluded him dating back to his five-game suspension two years ago for bridging Sami Salo, and perhaps that’s not a good thing.

“I think it’s very easy to tell that, after my suspension, I’ve calmed down a lot in that area. It is tough . . . I don’t want to be sitting out 8-10 games if I do something wrong again,” said Marchand following his solid Monday afternoon performance against the Wings. “So you do have to juggle that but at the same time I have to do my job and just try to play physical when I can.”

After another down game on Thursday night, Marchand wondered aloud if he needs to start re-thinking his conservative approach to the game. He hasn’t looked consistently emotionally engaged in the first few weeks of the season, and his puck management in the middle of the ice has been pretty spotty.

“You don’t want to get down on yourself or change your attitude,” said Marchand. “It’s about focus and doing all of the little things. I need to make sure I’m running my routes and doing the simple things. [My emotion] gets me into the game, and gets me a little more excited to be out there. Maybe I have to get back to doing that a little bit more.

“Taking the [agitating element] out of my game might have been the wrong approach. It kind of lights a fire under my butt, and maybe I have to get back to that. It might be nice to put it away, but I’m not kidding myself into thinking that I’m a skill player. I need to stick to my roots, and do what got me here. Playing hard and gritty is my style.”

Clearly it’s a little different from last season when Marchand jumped out with five goals in the season’s first seven games before slumping late in the season, and into the playoffs. Perhaps The Little Ball of Hate is planning to reverse the trend of last season, but that will be difficult unless he can work his way back into his customary line position with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson.

Right now Reilly Smith has put up points in three straight games skating in Marchand’s spot, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.