Marchand/By S. Bradley

Good brat or bad brat?

After Bruins head coach Claude Julien applied those terms to the two sides of forward Brad Marchand, that was the question running through the coach’s mind and everyone else’s thoughts seemingly every time Marchand took the ice.

There were still some unfortunate instances where Marchand crossed the line. However, the speedster’s ability to be equally parts irritating to the opposition and exhilarating with the puck in the open ice continued to make him one of Boston’s best weapons.

He set career highs in all offensive categories and was responsible enough to stay on Patrice Bergeron’s wing, in a partial shutdown role, most of the season. Marchand was a mainstay again on the penalty kill and even scored five power-play goals for a mediocre man-advantage.

There’s no doubt that Marchand’s development chart , despite a poor playoff performance, continues to ascend. The Bruins need him to keep on that upward path in order to improve as a team next season.

Stats

Regular season: 76 GP, 28-27-55, plus-31

Playoffs: 7 GP, 1-1-2, minus-1

Contract status: Signed through 2012-13 at a cap hit of $2.5 million

Regular season recap

Highlight: Any worries that Marchand’s offensive game might not match his rookie-season output were quashed Dec. 23 against Florida, as the winger recorded his first NHL hat trick in a 8-0 rout of Florida. He scored a shorthanded goal just 5:56 into the game and then added two scores in the third period. He was plus-5 in just 12:48 of ice time.

Lowlight: Boston’s Jan. 7 loss in its Stanley Cup Final rematch with Vancouver didn’t just cost the Bruins two points. It also cost them Marchand, as the forward earned a five-game suspension for low-bridging Canucks defenseman Sami Salo. While some would argue he was overly punished, Marchand had built up enough of a reputation (he avoided suspension for a slew foot on Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen earlier in the season) that the punishment fit the crime. One has to hope Marchand learned his lesson from that incident, except he also clipped Montreal’s Alexei Emelin a month later (Marchand didn’t even get a hearing on that one).

Playoff recap: Like most of Boston’s big guns, Marchand was absent from the offense except for one goal. Unlike the rest of his teammates, Marchand went off the Bruins’ script and was caught several times embellishing in an attempt to earn calls. One embellishment even led to a Capitals 2-on-1 goal. Marchand had a series to forget, and the Bruins have to hope his poor play doesn’t carry over into next season/

Grade: B. Marchand’s outstanding regular season was spoiled not just by his lack of productivity in the playoffs but also by his theatrics. The Bruins pride themselves on not being a team of floppers, and he tarnished the reputation.

Carnac predicts … Marchand will challenge the 30-goal mark again next season and probably earn at least one suspension in a failed effort to toe the line. Then the Bruins might be caught in a vigorous negotiation with Marchand as an RFA next summer.