WILMINGTON, Mass. — Instead of a brick-red, energy line jersey, winger Brad Marchand was one of four players wearing a grey jersey for Bruins practice today Ristuccia Arena.
Vladimir Sobotka, Daniel Paille and Michael Ryder joined the rookie in that color, and all of a sudden the speculation began. Marchand was surrounded by a two-row-deep scrum after practice in the dressing room and some were wondering what impact he would have if inserted for Friday’s Game 7.
Well, let’s get this out of the way right now before the Bruins even report to TD Garden for their morning skate in preparation for the final game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia. If head coach Claude Julien decided to pull someone currently in his usual lineup and insert Marchand, it would go against everything the coach has preached for three seasons. And it could also be like dropping a grenade into a bonfire and not pulling your hand out.
First, let’s remember that Marchand isn’t some super-scoring dynamo that the Bruins are counting on to be a star in the years to come. And the Bruins’ No. 1 need right now is a finisher. There might not be one among the Bruins’ current top 12, but Marchand isn’t one either. At best, Marchand is a third-line guy with the potential to be a key penalty-killer and a mega-pest. From juniors through his two years in the American League, he has shown solid skill but is just as famous for his hot temper and poor decision-making when it comes to physical play and on-ice extracurricular activity. He’s even shown flashes of his hotheadedness in his brief NHL stints.
You don’t take a hyperactive kid in his third year of pro hockey with just 20 games of NHL experience and throw him into a do-or-die NHL playoff team against the “Broad Street Bullies.” It’s bad enough that Marc Savard, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler have taken some foolish penalties. You don’t need to add a guy to the lineup that’s famous for making dumb moves. Right now, Marchand is an up-and-coming punk that might be a serviceable NHLer in the next couple years. He’s definitely not a Game 7 savior.
And that brings me to the second point, which is Julien’s loyalty. You don’t have to be Ryder, Miroslav Satan, Dennis Wideman or Matt Hunwick to know that Julien sticks with players he believes in through thick and thin. Sometimes he’s loyal to a fault and players can sometimes look like they’re complacent while playing with the knowledge that the coach seems to have a father-like faith in his players, blemishes and all. While there are a bunch of guys that haven’t performed at the level you’d like at this stage of the playoffs in the last two games, none can be removed from the lineup at this point – never mind benched to make room for Marchand. There’s a lot more potential that someone like Ryder or Satan will do something big in Game 7 than there is for Marchand dropping in and turning things in Boston’s favor.
Marchand skating on a higher line was probably more of a tactic by Julien. He wants to serve notice to Paille, Ryder and Sobotka that should this season continue they could be in jeopardy of seeing their role sliced. And he also wants to put the thought in the Flyers’ minds that they might see someone else across the ice Friday night.
Some of the Bruins’ would-be snipers might be playing like bums right now. But if there’s one thing we know about Julien, it’s that he’s going to go with the bums that got him here. Barring injury, I wouldn’t expect Brad Marchand to be anywhere near the Flyers Friday night, and that’s a move that makes sense.