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Wednesday Night Rivalry

Bruins seeing growth in Marchand's game

Boston forward a 30-goal scorer, still thorn in opponents' sides

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

Marchand's tricky goal

BOS@DAL: Marchand ties the game with nifty backhand

2/20/16: Brad Marchand takes in a pass from Brett Connolly, brings the puck to his backhand and taps it in for his 29th goal of the season

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BOSTON -- Of the five players who had scored at least 30 goals this season as of Tuesday, one never has played in an NHL All-Star Game.

Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who has an NHL career-best 30 goals in 55 games, has crashed a party of elite scorers this season, a group that includes three-time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Marchand leads the Bruins in goals, is fourth with 46 points and has 15 goals and 20 points in his past 18 games heading into their game Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports) at TD Garden. 

Marchand's hot hands have been the driving force behind the Bruins staying among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference through 60 games. 

"I love to feed off him," said Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who hasn't scored in 34 games. "If he could give me a goal or two that'd be nice. … It's great what he's doing for our team. He's prepared every night and you can see it. He comes in with some confidence and some swagger and it feeds throughout the locker room. It's important to have a guy like that. When teams are winning they usually have a guy like that, so it's nice to have him going for us." 

The Bruins selected Marchand in the third round (No. 71) in the 2006 NHL Draft, and in his two seasons with Providence of the American Hockey League (2008-09 and 2009-10) he had 31 goals in 113 games. Despite his impressive offensive pace in the minors, Marchand began 2010-11, his first full NHL season, on the fourth line. 

Video: BOS@DET: Marchand scores 8 seconds into the game

It has been well-documented how that season finished. Marchand bolted up the depth chart and finished with 21 goals playing almost exclusively on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi all the way through their triumph in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. 

From that season through last season Marchand averaged 0.32 goals per game. For the sake of comparison, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin, Marchand's former teammate and another of the 30-goal scorers from this season, has averaged 0.39 goals per game in his NHL career. Despite his production, Marchand's reputation was as more of a pest than a scorer. 

"I think if you look at my first year they weren't bad numbers for the first year in the pros and learning," Marchand said. "I thought my second year I was on pace for some pretty good numbers. I just thought that as I got older I could continue to improve and it's something I always wanted to do. I'm not satisfied with just being good one year or even having a bad year. I always try to improve and that's a mindset I've always had and that's kind of helped me continue to grow." 

Now 27, Marchand is averaging an NHL career-best 18:33 of ice time per game and he's become a regular on the Bruins' second power-play unit for the first time in several seasons. He has six power-play goals and is second in the League with four shorthanded goals. 

"I just think he's playing some of his best hockey right now," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I really feel that he looks a lot like the Brad Marchand we had in the first year or so. There's a real determination in taking pucks to the net. And he's playing hard. There's less cheating. I think he's realized when he's had some tough times where he's really stretching the zone and he does get the puck, he's 1-on-2 and you can't do much in this League unless you're coming up with some support there. So he's really, when I say cheating, he's really come back and done a better job of going up the ice with some help there and because he's been able to have some better looks, better chances." 

Marchand still can walk that line, as evidenced by a three-game suspension earlier this season and a 10-minute misconduct in the third period of the Bruins' 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. But Julien is all right with Marchand playing on the edge as long as he doesn't cross the line. Marchand has stayed on the right side of the rules more often than earlier in his career, in step with how much his game has improved. Julien is effusive when talking about how Marchand protects the puck down low and is fearless carrying it to the net. And the speedy left wing also never lacks for confidence. 

"I just think that it's kind of a mental state," Marchand said. "When things are going well and the bounces are going your way, you feel like you can try those things. And sometimes when they're not, then you don't feel the some comfort to do it. I think that's all there is." 

There's no doubt Marchand has been comfortable most of this season.

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