BOSTON – It’s time for Brad Marchand to step up and be counted.
The Bruins agitator started slow in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but gathered momentum as the postseason rolled along with big, brassy performances against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
But he’s back to the Little Ball of Nothing in the Stanley Cup Final with zero points, a minus-3 and only nine shots on net in five games against the Blackhawks in a series where Chicago pest Andrew Shaw has been more of a factor.
The lack of emotional engagement and instigating moments on the ice is certainly one part of things, but Marchand's inability to get into the scoring areas is something else altogether.
Just as he was in the series against the Leafs, Marchand isn’t hanging on the puck with strength and making plays in the offensive zone. Instead he’s turning pucks over in the neutral zone and failing to get in the tight areas around the net while working with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Jaromir Jagr.
“It’s tough. They are very good defensively. They’ve got a lot of speed and they come back very hard,” said Brad Marchand. “They don’t give up many odd-man rushes. Everything you get is kind of from down low, so we’ve got to make sure we play that way. Play down low and try to get to the net.
“We are very desperate right now. We’ve got to make sure we realize what’s on the line. We don’t want to lose this opportunity. It could never come again so we are going to come out very hard [for Game 6].”
Claude Julien was asked about the struggles of players like Marchand and Tyler Seguin following Monday’s morning skate, and said it’s a mix of things like faltering confidence and tight defense on the ice.
“I think it's a little bit of both. You can talk to them a little bit, but the last thing you want to do is put too much pressure on them thinking that you're on them,” said Julien. “At the same time they've got to do their share of saying, 'You know what, it's my responsibility.' Accountability in our dressing room is very important. ‘I need to help our team out and my teammates and everybody.’"
“So it comes from both sides. I think it's a mutual thing that has to -- a little bit from the coaches to either showing some positive things or show them where they can be better in order for them to have a bigger impact. Then it's up to them to go out there and do it.”
Now with elimination on the line for the Bruins and Marchand, it’s up to the Little Ball of Hate to start getting back into the emotional mix, fighting to get closer to the net for scoring chances and playing with a lot more desperation than the shell that’s put up zeroes thus far in the series.