Brad Marchand back to being NHL’s most annoyingly great playoff performer

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the celebration produced many memorable images, like Zdeno Chara lifting the chalice like Leonidas preparing to spike a Persian invader. But perhaps nothing captured the essence of that Bruins team like a topless Brad Marchand.

It was a post-Cup parade party at SHRINE at MGM Grand at Foxwoods, on a night when the Bruins and their guests would run up a $156,679.74 bar tab (including one Amstel Light). It was a night when Marchand and rookie Tyler Seguin danced atop the bar sans shirts.

Those Bruins were a tough, scrappy champion that battled through glaring imperfections for ultimate success. Those Bruins were Brad Marchand in that moment: Smoking a cigar, looking like a feral animal, dancing like a fool, a tattoo that misspelled champions as “CHAMPIANS” adorning his side.

Appropriate, then, that Marchand was one of the primary reasons the Bruins won the Cup – scoring 19 points in 25 games, including two goals and assist in Game 7 at the Vancouver Canucks, and punching Daniel Sedin in the face several times in his greatest act of grating.

In his first playoff appearance in the NHL, Marchand looked like a player that would perennially be mentioned as a top performer.

Then he disappeared the following postseason against the Washington Capitals, managing a goal and an assist in seven games. Gone were the images of Marchand effectively pestering opponents and scoring key goals, replaced by images of him fecklessly embellishing to draw penalties.

As the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs opened against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marchand still didn’t resemble the catalyst he was two years ago. He had two assists in the first six games of the series, failing to provide much offensive spark.

But in Game 7, he took part in the series’ biggest play.

His line was cycling, and Marchand went where any rink rat loves to go: To the corner, where Dion Phaneuf chased him. Marchand sent a pass to Patrice Bergeron for a one-timer that James Reimer saved, but the puck sprung loose. Bergeron eventually got another crack at it, scored, and the Bruins miraculously advanced.

Since that moment, Marchand has been the same player he was in 2010: Feisty, noticeable and dangerous offensively, while the Bruins have gone 6-1.

The Little Ball of Hate is bouncing again.

Marchand had a goal and an assist in Games 1 and 2 of the New York Rangers’ series, adding assists in Games 4 and 5. He was quiet in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final offensively, though he engaged in some post-whistle chicanery and one memorable hit:

Arguably, it was that hit – which received a minor penalty after Matt Cooke was ejected rom the game for boarding earlier – that enraged the Penguins and led to their post-second-period skirmish with Bergeron and Chara.

In the Bruins’ Game 2 rout, it was vintage Marchand: Scoring 28 seconds into the game on a breakaway following a Sidney Crosby turnover.

He then putting the dagger in the side of the Pittsburgh Penguins with this goal at 19:51 of the first period, 25 seconds after the Penguins cut the lead to 3-1:

“The only shot I have is high glove like that,” he said.

Again, an indelible image: Marchand being engaged by Matt Cooke, refusing to take the bait, and then skating down to score a critical goal for the Bruins.

For salt in the wound, it was a shot he called from the bench, according to Shawn Thornton on CSNNE:

"[Marchand] with an unbelievable shot," Thornton said. "He actually called it on the bench…He told me on the bench where he wanted to go if he got one so he was unbelievable tonight.”

Marchand was asked after Game 2 if any of his goals reminded him of the ones he scored against Vancouver in 2010.

“They’re all nice to get. Especially in the playoffs,” he said. “I’m trying not to read too much into the past.”

The past is difficult for Bruins fans to ignore, considering the last time Marchand was scoring goals and agitating foes with this effectiveness, the journey ended with him dancing topless on a bar with fresh Cup ink.

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