Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn break down the last game of the regular season.
BOSTON – Let this be an ominous warning to the rest of the NHL: the offensive onslaught from Brad Marchand doesn’t look like it’s going to subside anytime soon.
The Bruins left winger scored the tying goal and then set up Patrice Bergeron’s third-period winner in a 2-1 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden Thursday night, adding to his NHL-leading nine points (three goals, six assists) that sees him in a tie with San Jose Sharks D-man Brent Burns.
It’s been quite a line of progression from a player with a bit of a checkered reputation who started out on Boston’s fourth line Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in the B’s Stanley Cup season, but then took off once he was teamed with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi halfway through that season.
“You could see the talent, you could see that he had the great shot, the great release, I thought he was a good skater. I mean he has improved and he has grown as a player no doubt. But the biggest thing that I think was holding him back was that balance that he needed between being more or less a pest and getting under other people’s skin, and using his skill level and being the player he could be,” said Claude Julien. “I think that he has found that in the last few years and become a very respectable player around the league and people now notice how good he is when it comes to the skill level and what he can do as far as being in the game, being a game changer and scoring some goals at opportune times.”
Marchand has now scored in all four games for the Bruins this season and has picked up right where he left off a couple of weeks ago as the leading scorer for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
The momentum from that tournament, and the confidence boost from skating on the best forward line there that featured the best players in the world, clearly has Marchand taking his game to a star level that he was just scratching while scoring a whopping 37 goals last season.
“I think there’s times where confidence level is high. Right now, I do feel good. I just feel I have a step ahead of where I normally am coming into the season. I think a lot of that is attributed to the World Cup [of Hockey],” said Marchand. “Obviously, it’s such a high level and you’re playing with such speed for a whole month. So I’m feeling really good. I kind of feel like I’m in midseason form when, most seasons, it takes 10 to 12 games to feel that way.
“Hopefully things continue to go the right way. I’m getting some good bounces and Pasta [Pastrnak] is on fire right now, and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] is always going to be Bergy. I’m playing with some very good players.”
Clearly, the confidence is high when he scores a goal as filthy as the tying strike on Thursday night. Marchand wheeled through the neutral zone with speed, and then fired a shot from the right face-off circle right through Andy Greene’s legs and tucked inside the far post past a stretched out Cory Schneider. It’s the kind of thing that only the NHL’s best offensive players even attempt, and only the very best can execute with a little puck luck on their side.
“It is tough to get shots through, but if you get it off quick and through a screen, it’s going to go in at times. When it’s kind of quick, in stride, through the legs, that’s a tough one to stop and a tough one to see,” said Marchand. “That was a bit of a lucky bounce I think. I thought it went off the post, replay showed it going off the back of his knob. So you shoot the puck and good things happen.”
Good things continue to happen for Marchand as he rides out a hot streak and realizes the massive potential on a line that contains No. 63, Bergeron and ascending 20-year-old star talent David Pastrnak wreaking havoc at the offensive end of the ice.
BOSTON – While David Backes didn’t score a goal in his first home game as a member of the Bruins, his team came away with a comeback 2-1 win Thursday night over the New Jersey Devils in their home opener at TD Garden.
The 32-year-old Backes didn’t have anything on the scoreboard to show for it, but he led all Bruins with six shots on net and seven registered hits while starring as both an offensive threat and a physical presence bringing some much-needed attitude to the table.
Both qualities meshed quickly with David Krejci once they were finally together on the same line against the Devils, and immediately gave the playmaking center the kind of big, strong and offensively talented winger that he’s thrived with over the years. The whole experience also gave Backes an appreciation for his new home fans as they packed the stands to root on the Bruins Thursday night ahead of the Saturday night showdown with Montreal.
“There’s always, wherever you are, that opening night, that first game at home, that first game of the season, there’s always that extra jump, that extra energy in the building. It was everything it was talked up to be here with the fans that know the game and really thrive off the hard-nosed play,” said Backes, who has a couple of goals in four games with the Bruins this season. “It just makes you want to go out there and play harder for these people that support you, and wear that same jersey that we wear up in the stands.”
Backes had some of the best chances that didn’t go down for the Bruins against Cory Schneider, and narrowly missed a first period score when David Krejci’s centering pass was received, and then redirected by Backes just wide of the net from his spot camped in front. The right winger was at it again in the third period with a couple more chances he couldn’t put past Schneider, but served as proof that Krejci/Backes is going to have some long, possession-heavy shifts this season by virtue of both of their talents.
“There’s no doubt [the addition of Backes] helped. You’re getting, I guess, a veteran player that plays hard and goes in and gets some hits and gets some pucks out for you. But at the same time I think you have to give David [Krejci] credit, he’s been working hard trying to find his game again,” said Julien.
“It’s not easy when you have gone through surgery like [Krejci] has, and you know he had a late start to training camp and jumping in with the rest of the group there so that really kind of sets him back a little bit but I like the direction that he is going, I think he is working hard in practice, doing extra and doing what it takes here to find his game. Tonight was one of his better games, no doubt.”
Now, Backes, Krejci and Heinen have to get rolling offensively and start to show their balanced attack among the forwards now that the entire roster seems to be locked down ahead of starting on time this weekend vs. Habs.