BOSTON – The mornings are the most difficult. That's one thing Brad Marchand(notes) has learned. You try to get your sleep at night, as much as you can, but every time your eyes ease open, you still wake up tired. You're still drowsy. You're still drained.
Yes, this is what you dreamed about as a kid. This is what you imagined while playing youth hockey. This is what you worked for all season – to play in the Stanley Cup Final, to make it all the way to Game 7.
But the reality is, nine months into the grind, nursing aches and pains and worse, flying back and forth across the continent, you have to remind yourself of all that romanticism. Even if you're Marchand, a 23-year-old rookie, a 5-foot-9 ball of energy for the Boston Bruins.
"Every day," Marchand said. "You've got to keep reminding yourself that … you want to fight to the end. This is a situation that doesn't come up very often, and you want to make the most of it."
One day left. Wednesday in Vancouver. Either the Bruins will hoist their first Cup since 1972, or the Canucks will win their first championship since joining the NHL in 1970. One day left for Marchand to do what he does – score and stir it up – and perhaps help the Bruins upset the winners of the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL best regular-season team.
Marchand is a big reason the Bruins have this opportunity. He was at his best – and the Canucks might say, worst – Monday night in Game 6 with the Bruins facing elimination on home ice at the TD Garden.
The Bruins wanted a quick start. They wanted to score the first goal, to rattle Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo(notes), to shake his confidence and his teammates' confidence in him. And here came Marchand up the right wing, ripping a shot right at Luongo's weakness – high, glove side. The puck whizzed past Luongo 5:31 into the first period.
That was Marchand's third goal in four games. That was his ninth goal of the playoffs, and only three rookies have ever scored more: the Minnesota North Stars' Dino Ciccarelli (14, 1981), the Chicago Blackhawks' Jeremy Roenick(notes) (11, 1990) and the Montreal Canadiens' Claude Lemieux(notes) (10, 1986).
That also sparked a flurry of four goals in 4:14, a Cup final record. Luongo left the net after the first three. The Bruins went on to win 5-2.
"The shot he took was an extremely accurate and hard shot from an off wing, and that's the caliber of a Brad Marchand shot," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Hopefully with more confidence you're going to see him use that even more. He's been a great, great player for us. For a first-year player, he's been great. When you look at how he's handling himself in the Stanley Cup finals, you certainly can't complain as a coach."
Well, maybe as a Bruins coach. As much as Bostonians have bellyached about the Canucks' antics in this series – the biting, the finger-wagging, the diving – they would consider Marchand a villain if he played in Vancouver.
In one sequence at the end of Game 4, he clotheslined defenseman Christian Ehrhoff(notes) in the corner. He submarined winger Daniel Sedin(notes), sending him flying into the end boards. He dropped the gloves as defenseman Keith Ballard(notes) came after him. Finally, he wiped his hands clean of the Canucks as he skated off.
At the end of Game 6, another classic: With a gloved left fist, he smacked Sedin in the face. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. Four times.
"I felt like it," he told reporters.
He put Sedin in a no-win situation – take the abuse and hope for a penalty, or fight back when he's not a fighter. Sedin chose to take the abuse.
"We're going to keep taking the punches," Sedin said. "Guys are going to call us soft, but that's the way we play. If the referees see it, I'm sure they'll call it."
Sedin ended up screaming at a referee, who made a call all right – two minutes roughing and a 10-minute misconduct for Marchand and a 10-minute misconduct for Sedin.
"He called me for 10 minutes, too." Sedin said. " I don't know why. That's the way it goes."
"He's a young kid that plays on the edge, and sometimes the emotions get the best of him," said 43-year-old Bruins veteran Mark Recchi(notes). "But when you're young, that's not a bad thing. I would rather have a kid like that than a kid that plays with no emotion. It's a big part of his game, and he's learning."
It's what makes Marchand who he is. A third-round draft pick in 2006, he had zero goals and one assist in 20 games for the Bruins last season. But he had enough spunk to tell Julien he would score 20 goals for the Bruins this season.
Marchand made the team, but he was pegged as a fourth-line guy. As of New Year's Day, he had only six goals.
"I wasn't sure I believed he was going to score 20 goals for us," Julien said. "I told him he had a lot of making up to do. He just smiled at me."
Marchand finished with 21 goals, 41 points and a plus-25 rating. As Julien said, he kept his promise. (Not sure if he wiped his hands afterward.)
"Unfortunately, he's been looked upon here in this league more as a pest, stirring things up," Julien said. "What people don't know about Brad is he's got really good skills. He's got a great release, good shot, good speed. He's very capable of playing a good game."
One game left. One more morning, one more night. The Bruins need a hero. Marc Savard(notes) is out with a concussion. So is Nathan Horton(notes), who scored the Game 7 winners in the first and third rounds. The Bruins have scored in buckets and won all three games at home in this series, but they've struggled to score and lost all three games on the road – Marchand included. Four points in Boston, zero in Vancouver.
"It's obviously a tough grind on the mind and body," Marchand said. "But at this point, you've got to look at it … you're fighting for everything you've wanted your whole life. I think that overshadows any tiredness or fatigue that you're feeling. At this point, you've got to leave it all on the line. You've got all summer to recover."