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.