At 5-foot-9, 187 pounds, Providence Bruins forward Brad Marchand has always had to stick up for himself.
In his first pro season after a successful four-season career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Marchand has found that the edge he played with before making the leap to the American Hockey League has translated just fine.
“I think that’s one part of my game that I’m really going to have to keep going strong if I want to get an opportunity to play in the NHL,” Marchand told TheBruinsBlog.net over the weekend. “I think that’s probably what I’ll start off doing. That’s a big part of my game. It gets me into the game and gets my emotions going. And that’s what helps me play well. I’ve just been trying to keep it going, but staying within boundaries. I’ve been stepping over them and I’ve got to get back in them.”
Marchand started to toe the line a little better this weekend with just four penalty minutes during the P-Bruins’ three wins. But less extracurricular activity didn’t mean less production, as he posted 1-4-5 offensive totals and a plus-3 rating. A nominee for the AHL player of the week award, Marchand now has 3-7-10 totals in February and 8-18-26 totals since suffering through a three-point (all assists) December.
“It’s had its ups and downs,” the Boston Bruins third-round pick from 2006 said about his first year of pro hockey. “The first half of the year I wasn’t happy at all with how I was playing. The offensive part of my game wasn’t really coming at all; the defensive part of the game wasn’t going really well. … A bunch of the guys went up (to Boston) and things have been going well since then. But we still have 30 games left, so it’s a lot of hockey left.”
Those call-ups to the NHL, including Vladimir Sobotka, Martins Karsums and Byron Bitz, not only gave Marchand more of a chance to shine, they made him bounce around on a number of different lines. But that hasn’t slowed his progression into a consistent force from the center position.
“I think he’s been very consistent,” Providence head coach Rob Murray said. “One thing to March’s credit, with the changing of the line-up almost daily or weekly … one of the guys that I’ve moved around quite a bit, playing with different guys almost every night is Brad Marchand. And he’s been able to find a way to get it done. That’s a credit to the kid.”
Marchand looks at his ability to fill different roles with different linemates as part of the maturation process into a player that could become a regular at the game’s highest level someday.
“Sometimes it’s hard just because you get chemistry going with some guys and then they switch it up. I think part of being a pro is you have to learn to adapt and learn to adjust and go through adversity,” he explained. “We have a ton of good players, everyone has special abilities, and you just have to find them with each player. You have to learn how to read off each player. … It’s not hard.”
Playing with many different linemates might not be difficult for Marchand, but playing against him can be a handful — and that just might earn him a job in Boston in the not-so-distant future.