WILMINGTON -- It seems that Brad Marchand might be starting to put it all together.
At least that’s what he and the Bruins hope.
The longtime pest has struggled this season. The numbers spell it out: One goal in 14 games, a minus-3 rating, more turnovers in the season’s first month than Marchand would care to admit.
The Little Ball of Hate hasn’t consistently played with strong emotion, and he freely admits he hasn’t been paying the price around the net. He was the Bruins' leading scorer last year (18 goals, 36 points) and he knows the team is counting on him for more than he's delivered so far.
So what does he need to do to get back in touch with his game?
He needs to be emotionally invested, a spark he showed Tuesday night when playing against his old buddy Tyler Seguin.
He needs to shoot the puck with more frequency, and show a willingness to put that famous Marchand nose exactly where the goals are scored around the net. It was what he did as a rookie, when he was hungry for playing time and trying to establish himself at the NHL level. He's been setting up further and further away from the goal, and the paltry 18 shots in 14 games shows he's not getting to the action areas on the ice.
And, of course, he needs to act more like the aggravating element he's been throughout his career.
As a way to help spark that improvement, the Bruins have returned him to a line with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. It's a good start.
“I felt more comfortable with the puck on my stick, and was really getting in synch with [Bergeron] and Loui on my line,” said Marchand. “I’m definitely happy there were a few [scoring chances against the Stars on Tuesday night], but I also know that I definitely need to be better along the wall.
“I’ve thought a lot about past years, and I think a lot of my success has come from being around the net."
There have been signs Marchand is once again starting to invest heavily in the Bruins Way of doing things. So maybe the B's are once again about to see a little bit of Ball and a little bit of Hate.