Considering the way he busted his way onto the Bruins’ opening-day roster and then forced the Boston coaching staff to move him into a top-six role, you just knew that sooner or later Brad Marchand would break through the wall that seemingly had been built between him and the 20-goal mark.
After all, he’s a hyper-active 22-year-old who on and off the ice always seems like he’s ready to go through a wall.
The rambunctious, diminutive winger reached that impressive plateau tonight in dramatic fashion, as he ended his 12-game goal drought with a power-play score that lifted the Bruins to a playoff-spot-clinching 2-1 victory at Philadelphia.
Marchand became the fourth Bruins player this season to reach 20 goals and the first Boston rookie since Blake Wheeler two years ago to score that many.
It’s been an eventful rookie-year month of March for Marchand, who scored his 19th goal Feb. 22 in Calgary and was starting to garner some Calder Trophy buzz for not just his scoring but all-around play and penalty-killing.
He hadn’t scored since the turn of the calendar, however, and grabbed several headlines with his elbow to R.J. Umberger’s head that earned a two-game suspension from the NHL. The month also featured him publicly characterizing the Montreal Canadiens players as divers and fakers, getting benched for an entire third period on Long Island for some bad penalties and haphazard play, and skating a few shifts back with the fourth-line teammates that helped him get his feet wet at the start of this season.
Just as there was a fear Marchand would tone down his game and be less of a physical presence after the suspension, there was also a possibility that Marchand would never find his scoring touch again and turn out to be a fluke. Once a 33-goal scorer in junior, Marchand scored just 18 goals in his one full season of American Hockey League play. His pro projections mostly figured him to a be a grinder and agitator with the hands to contribute offensively here and there, not to be the prime threat he’s become with Boston this season.
Marchand, head coach Claude Julien and others in the Bruins’ dressing room admitted Marchand was pressing. When you’re serving as a sniper for the first time, it has to be difficult to figure out one’s way out a sniper’s slump. Marchand solved the problem the way every Bruins player should attempt to break out of a funk and the way he has to get most of his goals – by getting his nose dirty.
Taking advantage of the power-play time that used to belong to slumping Michael Ryder, Marchand carved out an area at the top of the crease and batted home a rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg point shot. It was a goal more reflective of Marchand’s fourth-line roots than his current status as the team’s fourth-leading goal-scorer. But now he has the weight of wanting to get to 20 off his shoulders and he can work on scoring some fancier ones in the last couple weeks of this season.
As for Marchand’s edge, we know that hasn’t vacated his repertoire since the league ban. He had some folks up in arms for his high hit on Scott Gomez Thursday against Montreal. Tonight against a Flyers team that plays a style perfect for Marchand to cause a ruckus against, he tried to mix things up after Patrice Bergeron had to take a penalty to make up for a Boston giveaway. Marchand might be a goal-scorer these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to shy away from coaxing an opponent into a power-play canceling penalty.
Any rookie is going to endure some growing pains. Marchand has made the most of the coaching he’s received, the lessons he’s learned and the ice time he’s been granted. Hopefully for him and the Bruins, reaching 20 goals is just another wall he had to break through on the way to grander things this season and in his career.