BOLTON, Mass. -- One year ago, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand reported to training camp after a 37-goal season in 2015-16 and a five-goal performance for champion Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
He had a lot to live up to.
Marchand responded to that challenge by scoring an NHL career-high 39 goals to help the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons, so as he prepares to report to training camp Thursday he knows how to handle raised expectations.
"When you're fortunate enough to have a year like that, I think there's definitely high expectations," Marchand said before the Bruins' charity golf tournament at The International on Monday. "But I'm not going to put that on myself. I know everything just kind of clicked and went right last year, but it's more just about being prepared for every game and following [center Patrice Bergeron] around and getting open and maybe him hitting me backdoor. We're always going to work hard and hopefully it goes well for everyone."
Beyond the increased pressure to duplicate or exceed past production, there are other reasons for the spotlight to be on Marchand. The 29-year-old is about to start an eight-year, $49 million contract he signed on Sept. 26, 2016. He's optimistic about the Bruins' chances this season and his own ability to continue to improve.
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"We definitely had a better year last year than I think a lot of people thought we would've and we came a long way," Marchand said. "It's been exciting, even the last couple captains' practices, to see the young kids, what they've been able to do, and the skill that they have and what they're going to be able to bring to the team this year. It'll be fun to watch them grow and help the team, and hopefully we make another stride this year."
Marchand, who led the Bruins in goals, assists (46) and points (85), has soared since beginning the 2010-11 season on the fourth line. Back then he was known more for agitating than scoring. Though his game has blossomed, he's always maintained the edge of an irritator. The more he's produced, however, the more opponents have tried to do to him what he was doing to the best players as a younger player.
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"Especially young guys, it's always fun to see young guys come in and have that same enthusiasm about playing a certain way and fitting into a certain role and going after guys, trying to get them off their game," Marchand said. "It reminds me a lot about myself my first couple of years. You see how much they love the game and how much they want to be in this league. You've got to respect that."
Things haven't always gone as planned for Marchand in the discipline department. He was suspended two games for spearing on April 6, but believes just as his production has increased each year, he's gotten better at controlling his temper.
"I think especially with some of the things that have happened the last couple years, suspensions, fines, stuff, guys are definitely on me," Marchand said. "It's honestly just about trying to control that split-second decision. That's what it comes down to.
"When you react to things, that's when you get into trouble and it's tough to completely control a split-second reaction. So it's about training your mind to react a certain way when situations arise. It's not the easiest thing to do and you can't always be 100 percent correct, but at times when you're not, they cost you. So just trying to stay away from that."