Will Bruins Forward Brad Marchand's Recent Revival Continue?

Al DanielCorrespondent IIDecember 1, 2013

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 30: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins chases the puck down the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period during the game at TD Garden on November 30, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Those who had a suitable view of Friday’s action, either in person or via television, caught a glimpse of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand recognizing and seizing momentum. One faceoff after captain Zdeno Chara granted Boston a 3-2 lead over the New York Rangers, Marchand gained possession in the near alley and hustled to wage a follow-up rush.

That move did not generate much on the NHL’s official play-by-play sheet. At least it did not yield much in the way of shooting and scoring, but it did in terms of grinding and competing.

At 11:16 of the third period, 11 seconds after Chara’s eventual clincher, Marchand garnered credit for an offensive zone hit on Blueshirts blueliner Dan Girardi.

If that whole play is any microcosm of Marchand’s present state of affairs, he should continue to kick ice chips over the remnants of a rough first quarter to his season.

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 29: Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers at the TD Garden on November 29, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The sequence spoke to the undersized winger’s will to keep himself engaged in an effort to put the adversary away once his team had regained the upper hand. Beforehand, he was instrumental in gaining that edge, scoring the afternoon’s first goal himself and setting up pivot Patrice Bergeron’s 2-2 equalizer.

The next night, Marchand continued the follow-up by again feeding Bergeron to help break the ice en route to Saturday’s 3-1 triumph over Columbus. Moments later, he barely missed burying a bid for his second goal-assist variety pack in as many nights when he hustled to the porch at 13:22 of the opening frame.

Come what may, it was his fourth point in four outings over the last calendar week of November. His other statistical contribution of the week was the primary helper on Torey Krug’s overtime clincher versus Pittsburgh.

Dating back to Nov. 19, the night of another one-goal squeaker at the traditionally stingy Rangers’ expense, Marchand has five points in his last seven ventures. Each point, combined with efficiency in the defensive zone, has steadily elevated his rating to a plus-six.

All of this follows a 20-game start that yielded a paltry seven points and a plus-one rating.

Following Friday’s contest, Bergeron observed to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin that Marchand has “…picked it up with the way that he moves his feet and I think when he does that, he creates a lot of chances for our line.”

The scoring plays and non-scoring plays alike all but made the second Rangers game the epitome of Bergeron’s scouting report on his own linemate. Saturday offered additional signs (including the opening assist) that Marchand will continue to percolate a more productive stream opposite Bergeron and offseason import Loui Eriksson.

Amidst the Columbus contest, he threw in what csnne.com beat writer Joe Haggerty described as “a great bit of irritating hockey behavior from Brad Marchand that drove Matt Calvert bonkers.”

Naturally, Haggerty was referring to an incident at the 32-second mark of the middle frame―a window that is always primed for anybody to set a tone―when the two players in question incurred coincidental minors for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Granted, like any player, Marchand is not exactly productive when he is stamping himself tickets to the sin bin. Nonetheless, his feistiness can be a boon if and when his line is drawing power plays, a trend that will be worth looking for in the coming weeks.

It probably does not hurt the New England faithful to know that the 2013-14 season series opener with divisional rival Montreal is next on the agenda. If Marchand was sufficiently engaged against Columbus, he will not have much room to excuse anything less with the Canadiens.

Provided he does not spill his self-control, he ought to concoct more of exactly what the Bruins need out of him. Marchand himself told Mass Live’s Amanda Bruno early in the season that he intended to remain conscientious, “but at the same time, I have to do my job and just try to play physical when I can.”

Moments like Friday’s Girardi play, and somewhat more restrained versions of Saturday’s tangle with Calvert, would be the appropriate way to keep following up on his words. It also does not hurt that he recorded two hits within the first five minutes of Saturday’s first period.

As long as he stays within those boundaries, Marchand can remain a man of momentum for himself and the Bruins. That notion saw its share of action to close out November and translated, in particular, to his own point column as well as Bergeron’s previously static goal column.

Speaking of which, Marchand’s finishing numbers are not matching his recent playmaking resurgence at the moment. But plays like the shortcoming crash to Curtis McElhinney’s property on Saturday underscore sustained conviction when chances present themselves. Ditto when his wrist shot hit the pipe on a fleeting attack at 3:41 of the closing stanza.

To stave off staleness on their line, Marchand and Eriksson will each need to be sure to bury their share of biscuits sooner rather than later. Right now, Eriksson’s five goals and Marchand’s four combine for only one more than the eight on the year from Bergeron, who is ordinarily the troika’s playmaking specialist in the attacking zone.

With that said, none other than Bergeron has been an exemplary profile in persistence. His conversion of Marchand’s crisp, diagonal feed on Friday splashed his six-game point drought and halted an eight-game skid.

There would be less reason to believe that Marchand can sustain his dependability if he were as lacking in noteworthy chances as he is in actual goals. Instead, he is hunting for and creating chances and doing so on the heels of multiple key assists and one goal against marquee opponents, namely the Penguins and Rangers.

That production proved to be a critical additive to Boston’s efforts in a rigorous stretch of eight games in 13 days. With reliable rotation among the full depth chart, the Bruins posted a 6-1-1 record in that span and now start December with a hard-earned four-day respite from extramural engagement.

Like each of his allies, Marchand ought to capitalize on the extended rest while also using practice time to retain a forceful, game-ready rhythm in advance of this Thursday. Then there is the matter of being mentally ready to exercise requisite intensity against another participant in what now looks like a five-team Atlantic Division derby.

As long as he is ready to delve into the Montreal matchup the same way he did the Columbus clash, Marchand will have a chance to preserve his resurgence. Subsequent tilts with Pittsburgh and Toronto this weekend should offer kindling as well, but he must not let a potential string of goose eggs extinguish his flame.

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com