Mind games helping Marchand settle in
LOS ANGELES — Last season, even as a top-six forward in Providence, where coach Rob Murray leaned on him in every situation, Brad Marchand couldn’t translate much of his AHL stuff when he skated alongside the big boys in the NHL.
“I had lots [of confidence] when I first got called up, but it went away quickly,’’ Marchand said. “You get here and you realize how different it is. This year, I came in feeling pretty good. Things just seemed to click a little bit better than last year. Last year, everything was missing the net when I had my opportunities. This year, they’re starting to bounce in. I think there’s a little bit of luck there as well with the confidence.’’
Marchand entered last night’s game with the Kings riding a four-point explosion. Saturday against Colorado, Marchand pumped in two goals and recorded two helpers in his finest offensive outburst as an NHLer. Since Jan. 8, when Marchand was moved to the second line alongside Bergeron and Mark Recchi, the rookie has shown nothing in his game that would peg him as a fourth-liner.
In Providence, Marchand was a skilled player. But during his 20-game NHL run last season, he had no goals and one assist. When Marchand wasn’t a healthy scratch, he was an energy forward and part-time penalty-killer. Even in such limited roles, Marchand, as expected of a second-year pro, made too many defensive mistakes and took undisciplined penalties.
In hopes of sticking with the Bruins full-time, Marchand’s aim following last season was to improve his mental approach. During exit interviews, general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien emphasized the importance of consistency and eliminating the peaks and valleys that most young players experience. Over the summer, along with his usual training, Marchand consulted with several sports psychologists.
“I just wanted to make sure that even when things were tough and not going well, I’d stay mentally strong and stay positive,’’ Marchand said. “Any other tweaks were being faster and stronger. Same thing you do every other summer.’’
A better frame of mind, combined with his usual firecracker attitude, has turned Marchand into a scoring threat. Entering last night, Marchand had six goals and four assists in the nine games he’s skated with Bergeron and Recchi. For a player once pegged as a fourth-line NHL forward, Marchand’s current point-per-game tempo has affirmed his belief that he could be a go-to big-league gunner.
“I believed I could play that role in the NHL,’’ Marchand said. “Last year, after 20 games, I was having doubts. It takes a while. Playing with Rex and Bergy, how can you not produce when you’re playing with guys like that?’’
This star is shining Tim Thomas, winner of his three previous starts, was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week yesterday. Thomas kicked off the week with a 31-save shutout of the Hurricanes on Monday at TD Garden. In the next night’s rematch, following the 7-0 drubbing, Thomas stared down a resurgent Carolina club that hammered the net with 45 shots. Thomas stopped 43 of them to help the Bruins to a 3-2 win.
On Saturday, Thomas made 32 saves in the Bruins’ 6-2 win over Colorado. He went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. It was the second time this season Thomas earned first star honors.
Steven Stamkos and Martin Brodeur were the second and third stars.
Sturm’s house party Marco Sturm didn’t dress last night. The ex-Bruin is on the shelf because of tendinitis in his knee. On Saturday and Sunday nights, Sturm hosted several of his teammates at his temporary Manhattan Beach home, which is close to the year-round residence of former Bruin Glen Murray . . . With Savard out, Daniel Paille, a healthy scratch for the last four games, played last night. Paille skated on the fourth line with Campbell and Shawn Thornton . . . Former University of Michigan teammates Steven Kampfer and Jack Johnson played against each other as NHLers for the first time. Both played at Michigan in 2006-07, when Kampfer was a freshman and Johnson was a sophomore. Johnson turned pro after two seasons in Ann Arbor; Kampfer stayed for four years.