By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA As homecomings go, it went pretty smoothly for Brad Marchand in his first game as a hockey pro in his home city of Halifax.
The 23-year-old has already lived through an entire dream season while potting 21 goals as an NHL rookie and capturing the Stanley Cup. That wasnt enough for Marchand, though. He signed on for two more years with the Bruins in the middle of September, and played role of pesky winger with an offensive stinger to perfection. as he always does against the Habs, in Sunday night's 7-3 exhibition win over the hated Montreal Canadiens at the Halifax Metro Center on Sunday night.
He popped in a rebound goal during a second period power play, and looked fairly comfortable skating on his off wing on the right side with Zach Hamill and Benoit Pouliot. Marchand playing on the right side was one of several wrinkles the Bs coaching staff added to the preseason game in order to try out some different combinations and it worked out in the end for both parties.
Playing in the NHL and having my family and friends being able to see what its like playing for Boston and especially against Montreal made it a pretty special game, said Marchand. I had a couple of chances and I scored a goal. Wasnt the prettiest goal, but its still pretty good.
I heard halfway through last year that we were coming here, and from that day forward I was really looking forward it. I was excited for camp and the chance to play here. Its been a long time since Ive played in this building.
Coach Claude Julien said Marchand was having such a good time skating in front of 50 family and friends in the stands that he was trying to cajole the timekeepers into stopping the clock when it was inadvertently running during the game. During the preseason a running game clock is akin to telling the coaching staff theres an endless cup of Tim Hortons coffee waiting for them at every turn.
Julien and just about every other member of the Bruins organization were satisfied to quickly run the clock and get on the plane back to Montreal.
But Marchand was soaking it all in without knowing if theyll be back again in Nova Scotia anytime soon.
It was nice for Marchand to score in his hometown. After one whistle the clock was running he was the only one yelling at the referee to stop the clock, said Julien. The rest of us were telling him to be quiet. You could tell he wanted to stay here for a while.
It might have marked the oddest homecoming reception a player has ever received as a conquering champion returning to his old stomping ground, however.
A large pro-Canadiens crowd made it a fairly even mixture of boos and cheers for the winger in his first game back in Halifax as a bone fide Bruins player. The boos werent as lusty or as vitriolic as they were for Montreal Public Enemy No. 1, Zdeno Chara, but Marchand still heard them and chalked it up to inciting fan anger over last years first round playoff ouster.
Surely most Montreal fans assume if they beat the Bruins in Game 7 then Stanley Cup glory would have been theirs, right?
I think those were the Montreal fans, said Marchand. Theyre a little bitter about the way things went last year, but thats the way it goes.
Does Marchand still enjoy hearing catcalls from the Habs fanatics?
Any time they boo us its a good thing, shot back Marchand without hesitation.
The epically productive performance by Marchand skating with Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley in Friday nights preseason win over the Islanders combined with Sunday nights energetic game paint a pretty interesting picture for No. 63.
The skating, the shot and the energy have all been there for Marchand from the opening days of camp while some of his teammates have taken a more deliberate approach with the short summer. Marchand doesnt look like hes really missed a beat at all, and is playing with his typical fast-forward ferocity all over the ice.
Its a far cry from the player in Marchand that some assumed would come into the camp sluggish or slowed down after enjoying the post-Cup revelry. Everybody saw the pictures and heard about the booze-soaked parties attended by the newly minted Cup champs, but the Bs winger knew where to draw the line.
Sure there jokes in Boston where Marchand was the shirtless, boozy punch line, but the winger instead clearly went right back to work after his two weeks of good, clean, shirtless debauchery in Boston. The Honey Badger had his fun in Boston and then had himself a thoroughly professional summer of getting ready for his sophomore NHL campaign.
Instead of celebrating what hed done while potting 12 goals in the Cup playoffs, Marchand set his sights on proving hes much more than a one-year wonder.
This is a game that can bring anyone back down to earth pretty quickly. Youve just got to understand that theres a new challenge this year, said Julien. Everybody is going to be gunning for us this year. Were going to have our hands full. If we dont have our players focused properly, it could be a tough year for us.
So we need those guys to understand that and I think Marchand has understood it. His purpose on the ice has been working hard and I liked his game against the New York Islanders. With that MarchandBergeronPeverley line they seem to be clicking pretty well. So tonights another challenge for him. Hes in his hometown. He gets an opportunity here to show us hes going to stay focused on what he does best and hes not going to try to get out of his element.
Marchand was in his element as a catalyst for the champion Bruins last season, and its looked more and more as if that will be the case again this season and beyond for Bostons Honey Badger.