WILMINGTON, Mass. — Among Bruins players that are hated in Montreal, Brad Marchand definitely ranks in the top five.
If his on-ice pesky play didn’t do enough to agitate the Canadiens and their fan base this season, his comments last month about Habs players’ tendency to talk a lot of trash, dive and fall down clinched his place among the pantheon of despised Bruins.
After the Bruins’ first practice at Ristuccia Arena in preparation for their first-round playoff series with Montreal, which starts Thursday, Marchand didn’t want to engage in anymore verbal warfare. And he claimed that whatever reaction he receives when he takes the ice in Montreal next week doesn’t matter to him.
“I guess [it’s a compliment]. But I’m not there to get the fans to hate on me,” said the rookie. “I’m here to help the team win and if they hate me, they hate me. That’s how it goes.”
The Canadiens and their fans would hate Marchand more if he continues the success he’s had in past tournaments and playoff series in this year’s NHL first round. While Marchand hasn’t skated in an NHL playoff game yet, he has starred in the AHL and CHL, and at the World Junior Championship.
With Team Canada, he won two gold medals and posted 4-2-6 totals in the win in 2008. In 2009, he helped the Bruins’ Providence (AHL) farm club reach the Eastern Conference final with 7-8-15 totals in 16 games. And then there’s the Memorial Cup, which is the Frozen Four of junior hockey. Marchand helped Moncton of the QMJHL reach the championship game, where the Wildcats lost, with 2-2-4 totals in five games played.
“I don’t know. I love the playoffs; I’ve always loved the playoffs, “said Marchand about why he’s been able to produce when the stakes have been raised. “I want to win. Maybe things just seem to click sometimes. But it’s the best time of year. I love this time of year.”
As for getting ready for his first taste of the NHL postseason, Marchand said that being with the Bruins last spring as an extra forward helped him see how guys handle themselves and how games can turn on the slightest of events.
He knows he’s going to have to not just find his scoring touch again after potting 21 goals in the regular season. He’s also going to have to keep agitating while staying at the line so that he doesn’t cost Boston man power.
Earlier this week, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli talked about how the coaching staff this season has had to remind Marchand sometimes to not only cross the line, but also get closer to it. It’s hard to believe the Bruins would ever have to encourage the rambunctious winger to ramp up his excitability, but he knows exactly what they mean when they tell him to get back to playing his game.
“Sometimes when things are going well, I kind of get sucked into the doing the wrong things – trying to carry the puck too much or trying to be a bit of a dangler. That’s not really my game,” he said. “Mine is chipping pucks in, going to get it deep and playing on that line, playing aggressive and get in guys’ faces. Sometimes I get away from that when I think I’m too much of a scorer.”
Marchand said he’s asked for advice about the playoffs from some of his more experience teammates and learned about how everyone “works their butt off every time” they step on the ice. One might think that the hoopla that leads up to the Memorial Cup would’ve prepared Marchand for the lead-up to the NHL postseason and the on-ice intensity that will follow. But he says this is a whole other world.
“The Memorial Cup, it’s what you look forward to in junior. But everything that you played for, the Memorial Cup, all that, it’s to get here and to be in this position,” said Marchand. “That was a lot of fun and it’s a great experience that I went through. But it was all for this moment right here.”