The moment Tyler Seguin was traded by the Boston Bruins was the moment Brad Marchand realized he could be next.
“If you have half a bad year or you’re not playing up to par, with the cap system nowadays, they’re going to want to improve the team,” he said during the summer. “You don’t want to be that guy to get shipped out.”
For the three months of the season, Marchand looked like he might get shipped out: Five goals in his first 34 games. Worse yet, his attitude garnered more attention than his play: Remember when the Bruins had to give him a stern talking to after that “kiss the ring” incident vs. the Vancouver Canucks?
“I wasn’t happy with it, but he understands,” said GM Peter Chiarelli back on Dec. 18, three days after the incident.
Marchand gets paid to be a professional pain in the ass; the problem was he was being one for his own team.
But Chiarelli also told WEEI that Marchand wasn’t going anywhere, and that he was confident the little ball of hate would find his game again. “I go back over his last six or seven games and I’ve liked his play. He’s getting his legs back and his hands back.”
Two games later, Marchand scored twice against the Buffalo Sabres, his first multi-goal game of the season. Then another against Nashville and another against Ottawa. From Dec. 19 through Jan. 11, Marchand matched his goal total for the season with five. Then he hit hyperspeed on Jan. 14: Seven goals in six games, including back-to-back 2-goal games against the Blackhawks and the Kings, and then a 4-point night against the New York Islanders on Monday night.
In total, Marchand has 12 points in his last six games. And there’s been nary a whisper about his future with the Bruins, other than those declaring his line with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith as the hottest in hockey.
Marchand had played with Bergeron for years, including last season with Seguin, on the Bruins’ second line. They’re both players with defensive acumen, and kill penalties for the Bruins. (Marchand has four shorthanded goals this season.) Marchand’s speed can quickly turn a defensive stop into an offensive chance.
But it’s been the introduction of Reilly Smith to that line that’s made it click this season.
Smith was seen as a throw-in for the Seguin/Loui Eriksson trade, after a middling debut season for the Dallas Stars. That was, perhaps, his best motivation for this year.
"Being [considered] a throw-in in that deal with how people look at it, it definitely adds a little chip on your shoulder and you want to prove people wrong,” Smith told WEEI. “That was one of the biggest things I focused on coming into this camp, and it gives you extra motivation.”
Smith has 39 points in 51 games, three behind David Krejci for the team lead. Like Bergeron and Marchand, he’s now riding a six-game point streak, including a goal and an assist against the Islanders.
Marchand credits his linemates for his offensive resurgence.
“I’m playing with Bergy and Smitty, two phenomenal playmakers, and they’re making it easier for me out there,” Marchand told the Boston Herald. “Right now we feel pretty good. We’re building a lot of good chemistry with Smitty, too. Hopefully it can continue.”
Lines get hot, lines go cold. It happens. And frankly, what Marchand does in April, May and potentially June weighs heavier than what he does now.
But for a player whose intangibles were his only virtues; whose potential looked to be squandered; and one that was staring in the same abyss Seguin was jettisoned into by an impatient managerial braintrust, the last month has salvaged Brad Marchand’s season and reinforced what he can do when utilizing his unique set of skills.
Like him or not, but Brad Marchand was one of the primary reasons he was able to kiss the ring – and could be again if he continues this level of play.