Marchand looking for more from within

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Marchand looking for more from within

BOSTON -- Its easy for Brad Marchand to recall precious moments about his breakout rookie year and subsequent impactful playoff performance, but those very fine moments come with a cost.

With exceptional seasons come great expectations from the sandpaper-and-skill game Marchand always featured, and there is a certain cachet that arrives with the 20-goal scorer tag at the NHL level. Marchands 21 goals and 41 points now become measuring marks for this season and beyond.

Thats just the way it is in sports.

Its Brad in a nutshell: hes hard on himself and he has very high expectations, said coach Claude Julien. I have to make players understand that its not all about the score sheets. Its about what youre bringing to the table every night and whether youre competing hard doing the right things. A lot of guys are getting better in that area, so lets keep encouraging them.

Still, the five points (2 goals and 3 assists) in his first 11 games this season havent been up to his new Marchand standards, and the six-game scoreless span prior to notching an assist against the Senators certainly werent what he was looking for.

Ive always put a lot of pressure on myself. You do it even more when the team is losing more than usual, said Marchand. You want to find a way to help the team win. I need to be able to produce more.

But perspective is a funny thing for Marchand.

Last seasons run was magical, productive and ended with the ultimate reward but the little Bs spark plug also didnt collect his first goal until November last season while starting off skating with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. In fact Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Marchands first NHL goal scored in a two-point performance that helped the Bs take down the Buffalo Sabres.

So Marchand is actually well ahead of his pace from last season, and it would appear the sky is the limit while skating with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin on a line that doesnt appear to be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Thats what I told him, said Julien. I said, How many goals did you have at this point last year? and he said, One. So then whats the problem? We all know hes capable of having even better numbers, but I think in the first game against Philadelphia he had about five unbelievable chances. He just didnt bury them.

There is a lot of truth to the number of Grade A chances missed and posts rung for Marchand in the early going this year, and the similarity to the beginning of last years playoff run when the winger enjoyed a multitude of quality scoring chances against the Canadiens that went unrewarded patience.

Eventually shots fell for Marchand in a playoff run that had him put up 11 goals and 19 points in the 25 postseason games, and practically take over the Stanley Cup Finals at points last spring. So everybody, including Marchand, knows that its in there and its a matter of it turning chance into production.

Hes no different than anybody else where hes getting good chances around the net, but hes having trouble finishing around the net, said Julien. Getting frustrated by that just makes your game even worse. I told him to just focus on playing the game and eventually things will start going his way.

I keep saying the same thing: frustration just sinks you. Youve got to stay away from that. To me a guy that has opportunities cant be playing that badly, and a guy thats not getting opportunities has to start saying what am I doing wrong?

But the left winger is also playing significantly more minutes than he did last season, nothing power play time and being put into a significantly higher position of visibility than he did while opening eyes as a first year player.

I have a lot more points this year than I did at this point last year, admitted Marchand. But Im in a different position. I should be producing more than I am and Ive had my opportunities. You can look at it in that way that Im in a better position figuratively, but Im playing power play and probably playing twice as much in ice time. Im being looked at to produce, and hopefully things start going in for me.

So the stage is bigger, Marchands expectations are bigger for his own game, and that means the pressure he puts on himself is certainly coming down on him with a much greater magnitude. Add in the scrutiny hes getting from referees taking a much closer look at his after-the-whistle activity, and he would seem to be a player looking to ease off the agitator role hes renowned for.

Marchand admits that hes gone away from his rabble-rousing act at times this season, but his coach thinks its something hell never get that far away from because its in his blood.

Marchand will always be an agitator. Its in his blood and its always been there, said Julien. Hes trying to control things so that he doesnt get labeled as a guy the refs are looking for to call him for every little thing. But hell always be in peoples faces and what he wants to do is contribute a little bit more. He knows what he is and what he wants to be.

Marchand also knows that generating offense is in his blood, and both facets of his game need to keep churning if the Bruins are going to continue climbing out of the Eastern basement.

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

Krug: Bruins collapse 'is not going to happen this year'

BOSTON – Having lost three games in a row for the first time under Bruce Cassidy at time of year when you can’t drop into losing streaks, Bruins fans clearly want some sense of surety when it comes to the B’s making the playoffs.

Well, they got an ironclad guarantee from Torey Krug after he was the best B’s player on the ice in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Krug has been a part of the teams that collapsed in each of the past two seasons and the puck-moving defenseman said things are going to be different this time around with nine games to go.

“I haven’t thought about it, I haven’t talked about it. It’s a different feeling this year. [A collapse] is not going to happen this year. I know we’ve got a lot of pride in this room,” said Krug, who elevated his game and scored on a nifty, Bobby Orr-esque one-man rush up the ice in the third period. He also had a team-high seven shots on net and led the B’s in ice time in the loss. “The guys that have been through it. There’s no other option except making sure we stay on course and take care and do our jobs.

“You feel like you played pretty well and things didn’t go your way. You make a big mistake and it cost you. You got to realize what’s done is done, and we have an important task on Thursday [vs. the Lightning]. We’ve got to come to the rink with no other option except winning that game. That’s the mindset we’ve got to have.”

The Black and Gold are still in a pretty good position when it comes to the playoffs, even if their lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division is precarious right now. But it ultimately comes down to Boston summoning against Tampa Bay and the Islanders what they didn’t, or couldn’t, against Toronto and Ottawa, and making good on Krug’s defiant words following a bitter defeat. 


 

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

Bruins hope familiar lack of finish isn't cropping up again

BOSTON – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Bruins outshot an opponent, lost and then lamented their lack of finish on a bevy of scoring plays while begrudgingly tipping their hats to a hot goaltender.

It was the scenario for many disappointing losses in the first 55 games of the season under Claude Julien, and it was a little too eerily reminiscent in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden on Tuesday night. 

Certainly it’s just one game and there has been far too much good as of late to believe the Bruins are cannon-balling into a pool of previous bad habits. But giving up a goal in the second period while watching Craig Anderson make 18 second-period saves at the other end of the ice was a stark reminder of the bad old days.

“We struggled up in Ottawa getting through [the neutral zone], tonight I thought we did a better job,” said Torey Krug. “A win against that system is just getting the puck behind them and going in on the fore-check. We’ll take that every time. We did well, but we’ve got to find a way to get more goals on the scoreboard.”

Certainly there some stellar saves: A flashy glove hand on a Noel Acciari backhander from the slot and a couple of stops on Frank Vatrano in tight around the net come to mind. But there were also some light, perimeter play kind of nights from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak where the turnovers (a combined eight giveaways between the two forwards) and loose play were coming fast and furious.

That’s the stuff that needs to improve after watching Ottawa score on three redirections with bodies camped in front of the net.

“There are some,” admitted Bruce Cassidy when asked about parallels to some darker days earlier in the season. “Some of it you have to give credit to the goaltender you’re playing. Look at his numbers, he’s been very good. I’m not going to look too far back. I think we had good looks off the rush – he [Craig Anderson] made saves. We did have our D come late, get a couple of good looks, and that’s something we’ve really worked on. We had a D join and score. That was actually a nice individual score. So, those parts of our game, I think, it just ebbs and flows over the course of the year where you run into hot goaltending and you have to stay with it.

“That’s when you have to keep the puck out of your net. [In Toronto], we were right there until two minutes to go where even though we weren’t scoring, we were in a position to get points. [Against the Senators] it was a breakdown right after we scored, so I think the focus has to be when you’re having tough luck around the net, you need to get points. And maybe these games end up 1-1, 2-2, they’re going into shootouts or overtime and you accumulate your points that way. I think that’s where the last two games have been disappointing. You know, we should have had points. It may not have been wins, but we should have been there at the end and playing 65 minutes, or whatever it took to finish it.”

The silver lining, of course, is that the Bruins didn't get bogged down in Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 trap and were able to dictate play a bit more while never actually leading in the game. But that does little good when won-loss results and points in the coffers are all that matters in the final weeks. 

Perhaps some of the offensive scale-back in the past few games has been by design after letting up seven goals to Edmonton in the Western Canada road finale, but it’s also about being tougher and more determined around the net.

Ottawa won that net-front battle on Tuesday night and subsequently won the hockey game, so it’s time for the Bruins to do that exact thing if they want better results vs. the Lightning and Islanders later this week.