BOSTON - Brad Marchand entered the NHL as a fourth-liner. For years, he was considered an agitator, a pest, and a nuisance.
But his reputation around the league has changed rapidly over the last two seasons. A 37-goal campaign in 2015-16 and a starring role for Canada at last fall's World Cup of Hockey, have elevated his status to a point where he is now considered one of the league's elite scorers.
Marchand potted two goals in Boston's 6-1 win over Detroit on Wednesday night, clinching his first career 70-point season. The winger became the first Bruin to reach that marker since Marc Savard (88 points) in 2008-09.
"It's a nice accomplishment. I think it just speaks volumes of how well guys are playing and I've been benefiting a lot from that," said Marchand, now in his eighth season with the Bruins. "[David Pastrnak's] been hot all year and being put on the power-play unit we've had success. [Patrice Bergeron] the last 30 games is, I think, over a point per game. I'm just playing with guys that are having great years and I've been benefitting from that."
Video: DET@BOS: Marchand dekes on a breakaway for his second
The 28-year-old is tied for second in the NHL in points with three of the game's very best. Marchand, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane all have 70 points, four points behind Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid.
Marchand has reached a level he never expected when he began his career.
"I guess the goal every year is to get better and better, but it was always just to be here and be part of the team," said Marchand, whose 32 goals rank third in the league behind Crosby and Patrik Laine. "I never looked ahead to where I could be today, but I feel very fortunate and hopefully things continue to go well for our team.
"When your team does well and you're winning then everyone has success from that. You see that with all Cup-winning teams. Those guys end up having long careers. Hopefully we can get back to that, that's our goal. When the team does well we all do well."
Video: DET@BOS: Marchand sneaks in, buries sharp wrister
Despite all his success, Marchand continues to deflect the praise, instead giving credit to his teammates - both past and present.
"I think I'm just playing with elite players," said Marchand, who has 13 goals and 23 points over his last 15 games. "In our group you're expected to play at the same level of those guys and I've been fortunate enough to play with those guys for a long time. And when you learn from guys like Bergy and [Zdeno Chara] and in previous years, [Mark] Recchi, Chris Kelly, Andrew Ference, you learn to become a pro.
"I think it just shows the leadership we've had over the past years to help our young guys grow. Fortunately I've been put in a position where things are going well and been blessed to be a part of this organization for a long time."
Now considered one of the team's veterans, the former Stanley Cup champion is passing off some of the lessons he has learned to the Black & Gold's core of up-and-coming talent.
"I think he's kind of looked at in the main group of guys that we have here as leaders," said Bruins defenseman Colin Miller. "There's so many of those guys that don't really wear a letter that are also just quiet leaders in their own - maybe March isn't so quiet - but he really is [a leader]. Can't say enough about him. He's been great."
Video: Marchand reaches 70 points
Stafford Pots First as a Bruin
Drew Stafford potted his first goal in Black & Gold when he notched the Bruins' third goal in the win over Detroit. Playing on a line with David Krejci and Pastrnak, Stafford picked up a loose puck in the slot and sniped one over the shoulder of Jared Coreau, forcing the Red Wings netminder to the bench and giving Boston a 3-0 lead in the first period.
"It's all about opportunity and fit, really," said Stafford, who added an assist, three hits, and a plus-3 rating in 16:04 of ice time. "So, I believe in myself and what I can do and how I can play - given an opportunity here to play with some pretty good players. Like I said, I'm trying to just ease myself into it a little bit, but at the same time take advantage of it - this opportunity. So, still early, still some work to do and stuff, but, so far, a pretty good start."
Video: DET@BOS: Stafford snipes home first goal with Bruins
It was Stafford's second game alongside Pastrnak and Krejci and it appears the trio is quickly forming a bond.
"I thought he was great," said Krejci, who had two goals and an assist. "He was making plays, good on the puck, strong on the forecheck. So, he was a good thing for our line. Playing for him on the left side - I know it's not easy, he's a right-handed guy. But, I thought he did a very good job tonight."
Forward Tim Schaller left Wednesday night's tilt against the Red Wings after crashing into the boards feet-first behind the Detroit net in the first period. He did not return and it was announced during the game that he had a lower-body injury.
"Schaller is injured," Cassidy said after the game. "I don't have the extent of what going forward. But definitely, as you know, did not return. And I don't want to speculate. I'm sure someone will put out a release [Thursday] and an update - I'm sure he'll have a doctor's visit and we'll go from there on that one."
Schaller has seven goals and seven assists in 58 games this season.
Video: Cassidy discusses Bruins' 6-1 win over Detroit