COLUMBUS – Claude Julien had been patient with Brad Marchand after an “average” training camp and a slow start to the season, but the itchy trigger finger finally pulled for a line change on Saturday afternoon.
After watching a scoreless first two periods where Marchand had more rough turnovers at his own blue line than scoring chances, Julien plugged left winger Reilly Smith into Marchand’s spot. The new trio produced a game-winning goal for Loui Eriksson on their very first shift of the third period en route to a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Smith picked up the second assist on the Eriksson goal with Bergeron creating the play on a nice cross-ice play to set up the Swede’s backhanded score.
Afterward, Julien said it is pretty clear that Marchand is “fighting it” with one point and eight shots on net in four games, and the turnovers against the Blue Jackets were clearly a sign of a player trying to do too much.
“He’s been fighting it for the last little while here. Sometimes you need to take a guy away from where he is, and take some of the pressure off. It’s not because he doesn’t want to do well,” said Claude Julien. “In his mind he’s trying, but he just needs to find his game. Sometimes putting a guy on another line will help him find his game. “He’s fighting it. There’s no doubt he’s fighting it. As a coach you make the change you think is right to win a hockey game. We know how good [Marchand] can be. Right now he just needs to fight through it.”
Marchand knows he’s not playing his best hockey in the first few weeks of the season despite a game-winning goal against the Red Wings. A second period turnover to Mark Letestu at the defensive blue line needed a glove save rescue from goaltender Tuukka Rask, or it might have been damaging in a tight one goal game.
There was also an absence of emotional engagement or a willingness to stir things up from the usually excitable Marchand. Some of that is a move toward avoiding penalties and suspensions, but it doesn’t seem like Marchand is playing his game if he’s acting the part of the annoying gnat in his opponent’s face.
“I was just rushing plays, and that stuff happens,” said Marchand. “I’ve got to be better. We’ve been kind of quiet, and I think he was just switching things up to try to get us going. They scored right away, so it worked.
“I just need to get back to play simple, and play the system. If I do that then things will start to fall into place.”
Perhaps it will be the opposite of last year for Marchand when he came out of the gate sprinting, and then slumped a bit later in the season. Both the Bruins and Marchand himself would gladly take that if it means finding his game in the rhythm of the regular season.