BOSTON, MA – Brad Marchand is no longer just an agitator.
Marchand talked last week about ramping up his play and over the last two night’s – victories against the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils – the winger’s new game has been on full display. He potted his first shorthanded goal of the season on Monday night in Carolina – a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Zdeno Chara in the first period – and on Tuesday night, back in Boston, he scored the winner in the sixth round of the shootout.
No. 63 has been a huge asset to the Black & Gold’s near-perfect penalty kill – though, he always has been, he scored five shorthanded goals in 2010-11 – and is third on the team with four points (three goals, one assist), despite not having played during the work stoppage.
Patrice Bergeron can the see the growth in his linemate and penalty kill partner’s game – from an agitator, who sometimes went over the emotional edge, to a more mature, well-rounded player.
“I think he’s been doing that, concentrating on his game,” said the B’s alternate captain, of Marchand’s growth as a player. “But, he still can’t lose his edge, that’s him and that’s what makes him so good.”
Head coach Claude Julien echoed Bergeron’s thoughts on No. 63, saying Marchand must strike the right balance when it comes to the edgy part of his game.
“He’s gaining experience in that area,” said Julien, following Tuesday’s morning skate. “You want to be what you are, he certainly can get under people’s skin. You don’t want to get under the referee’s skin. Early on [in his career], I think that’s what was happening.
“Now, he’s picking his spots and he’s picking the right spots and he knows when to get out and not push his luck. That’s a credit to the experience that he’s had over these years.”
Marchand sat down with Julien following last season and was told to focus more on playing hockey and less on getting under opponents’ skin.
“I talked Coach at the end of the year, and they want me to focus more on playing the game, and that can extend your career a few years,” said Marchand. “That’s what I’ve tried to do is just work on my game, especially right now where I haven’t played in eight months and just getting back into it. It’s not something you can really just jump back into. There’s different parts of the game you want to get back first, and that’ll come throughout the season.”
Has he tried at all to be the “Little Ball of Hate” yet this season?
“I haven’t really even tried, to be honest,” he said, following the B’s off-ice workouts Tuesday morning at TD Garden. “There’s so much to worry about right now, just trying to get my legs back and get my game back. I’m more concerned with working hard and just catching my breath out there than chirping, I guess.”
According to Marchand, nobody had – key word being, had – tried to provoke him either, saying that games are too important during a 48-game schedule.
“No one has really tried to chirp me much," he said. "With the shortened season these points are so crucial and you can’t take bad penalties by trying to suck a guy in. A lot of guys haven’t played, and it’s tough just to get your game back.”
All that was said before Tuesday night’s, 2-1, shootout win against the Devils. Marchand showed that in select situations, he can still be the provocateur.
“Yeah, there was some chirping going on all game,” said Marchand, after Tuesday’s victory. “A little bit, not a ton. Pretty much sucking wind the whole night, but a little bit of words back and forth. It was good to give it back.”
Marchand is embracing his new style of play, and while the B’s haven’t seen the last of his provocativeness, his main focus now is scoring goals and helping the team win.
“I knew I could still find different ways of the game to produce, to be effective,” the winger explained. “That’s one thing that I just, I enjoy doing. [Being scrappy] gets me going a little bit more from if I’m not going. But at the same time, I can’t rely on that all the time, and there’s so much more to the game than just being a little rat, and I’ve got to focus on those things.”