Yes, Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been struggling. Mightily.
He missed two of the most open nets you’ll ever see with a goalie on the ice in Game 4 of the B’s first-round playoff series with the Red Wings, failed to score on two great short-handed chances in the Game 5 clincher, and took some foolish penalties to boot. He’s flopped and made people question whether he faked a knee injury.
Some have called for the fifth-year pro to be dropped to the third line, a la Tyler Seguin last year, though that unit has played well thus far. Others have suggested a night in the press box, a bit drastic in the postseason, if you ask me.
In his five games to this point, a dozen Bruins have scored goals. Marchand has yet to tally a point on 11 shots and he’s racked up eight penalty minutes. Oh yeah, and three missed empty nets.
Even goalie Tuukka Rask had an assist against Detroit.
So, is it time to worry about Boston’s gritty winger?
The answer is no.
Most importantly, Marchand has had his chances around the net. His play would be far more concerning if he hadn’t, and he wouldn’t necessarily be a topic of conversation if he’d buried one or two of them. That’s what happens when you’re snake-bitten. You live under the microscope until you get off the schneid.
Perhaps a change of scenery, or in this case a change of series, will make all the difference. Of course, skeptics of that theory will quickly point out Marchand went point-less against Chicago in last year’s Stanley Cup Final, finishing a minus-three over six contests.
Yes, that’s 11 straight games without a single point.
But to that, I’ll remind you Marchand had 13 points in 16 prior playoff games in 2013. In his 32 postseason outings before that, he scored 12 goals and added nine assists while being a feisty and impactful difference-maker for the 2011 Cup champions.
In his lone AHL playoff experience, Marchand registered 15 points in 16 games for Providence. Over three previous playoff runs in juniors in the QMJHL with Moncton and Halifax, he dominated with 78 points in 54 games.
As I wrote last June, the playoffs are Marchand’s time to shine, even if he’s hit a bump in the road. And even if he’s only found the back of the net five times in his last 34 playoff games spanning three postseasons. Assists count, too, ya know.
The only thing that can stop the Bruins’ youngster from being an offensive contributor, short of spectacular goaltending, is what’s between the ears. When his head’s on straight, Marchand is a focused agitator who takes careful measures to do just enough to irritate his opposition while not crossing the line or taking a dumb penalty. He wasn’t that player against the Wings on a couple of occasions, often struggled to get out of his own way, and his next opponent knows how to be aggravating in its own right.
Marchand has to get out of his own head before a Habs team hungry for an upset creeps in.
This next series has the potential to be as emotional a best-of-seven the Bruins will play all postseason, and that includes a potential run to a third Final in four years. These teams, these players, and these cities positively loath one another.
Marchand is still the same player who scored 25 goals and dished out 28 assists in 82 regular season games. He’s still playing with Selke finalist Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith, who he spent the vast majority of the year alongside.
He’s overdue to score, and he will. A prediction: Marchand will play a great series against the Canadiens, and he’ll find his way onto the score-sheet on a point-per-game basis.
His playoff reputation -- and a series -- may depend on it.
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