BOSTON - All it took was one pretty good game to underscore just how valuable Brad Marchand is to the Bruins when he’s mentally, physically and emotionally invested into what’s going on around him.
All three parts were on display in the 4-1 victory over the moribund Florida Panthers at TD Garden on Thursday night. It showed how free and easy things can be for the B’s agitator when he brushes that monkey off his back.
Sure, it ended with a third-period goal that ended up as the game-winner while snapping a 12-game goal-scoring drought.
“I think [Marchand] scored the goal the way we know he scores,” said coach Claude Julien. “Made a great play at the blue line, and then just skated to the net. [He] was able to jump on that loose puck. He talked about moving his feet, and when he moves his feet he creates things and he scores himself some goals too.”
It all started in the first period when Marchand was front and center attempting to inspire himself and his teammates. Marchand had to get dragged back to the Boston bench by linesman Darren Gibbs as he yapped and chirped with a group of Florida players around the Panthers net, and kept going back for more.
It was particularly noticeable as a rare show of anything remarkable – along with the Gregory Campbell scrap with Jesse Winchester standing up for an elbow to Chris Kelly’s head -- in the sleepy first 20 minutes for the Black and Gold.
For Marchand it was a positive sign when far too many times he’s stayed out of the fray rather than dropping himself right into the emotional furnace burning in the danger areas of the ice.
“It’s frustrating, you want to contribute all you can. When you see the games go by and not only you’re not scoring, but I wasn’t really playing really well,” said Marchand. “It’s very frustrating. You want to pull your own weight especially with the team we have. Everyone is expected to play up to par and so like I said, it was nice to get one and just got to keep trying to build.”
That willingness to throw himself into the trouble areas on the ice is also exactly what led him to his goal. Marchand had made a high-end play to carry the puck into the offensive zone rather than simply dump the puck deep, and then crashed the net when the puck shot toward the net from Dennis Seidenberg’s left point. The German defenseman’s shot trickled through the pads of Scott Clemmensen, and Marchand pounced on the loose puck in the crease before tapping it in.
The goal wasn’t a high degree of hockey skill difficulty. Even better that it was something that rewarded Marchand for crashing down low with pucks being shot toward the Florida net. All that was left at that point was the goal celebration after ending the worst slump of Marchand’s career since his rookie season. The B’s left wing didn’t disappoint.
After circling around behind the net, Marchand grabbed at his back as if to pantomime the action of throwing the monkey off his shoulder.
“Well, if he wasn’t scoring on that one, then I don’t know what to say. It’s good to see him…he played better today, the whole line played good. I think it’s just been keeping things simple, and not trying too much,” said Tuukka Rask. “It’s tough when you’re kind of off your game, and then you’re trying to get back. You just feel like you’re doing the same mistakes all over again; so I thought he played a good game today, he chipped pucks in and made the right plays. Then he got rewarded, so hopefully he keeps it all going.”
The B’s forward said it was a spur of the moment goal celebration that didn’t have a lot of thought to put into it, but it’s difficult to tell when Marchand has had a month to decide how he’d deal with it when it finally did arrive.
The Bruins certainly hope that a resurgent Marchand can bring a much needed spark to the games of Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith.
“He made a play, and not only that he came back high enough to make that play, and also he started heading right to the net as soon as he made the pass. So those are things that Brad is known for,” Julien said. “Even on that goal against, he comes in, takes a shot, goes behind the net and he blows by both his linemates to come back and he did a great job of back checking on that play.
“So, that’s all to say that when his feet are moving, he’s a much better player.”
It was clearly time for Marchand to break through after getting chances in his past two emotional game against the Stars and Panthers, and it will continue to be his time moving forward with a Boston hockey club that relies on him offensively. The B’s agitator has plenty of skilled, prolific teammates, but it was Marchand that led the Bruins in goals (18) and points (36) last season in a lockout-shortened season.
It’s Marchand that will help pull the B’s out of any offensive doldrums as they tread water in the middle of the NHL’s offensive teams thus far while constantly looking for more.