On Friday, after Brad Marchand raced down a puck to wipe out an icing call, then set up linemate Wacey Rabbit for an empty-net goal, one of the rookie's first reactions was to get in the face of several Monarchs.
That doesn't surprise Rob Murray, also an effective agitator (373 penalty minutes for Springfield in 1994-95) during his playing career.
"That's when I was at my best," said the Providence coach. "I was just lipping at everybody and getting under guys' skins. I remember a coach telling me, 'Shut up. Settle down.' But I was just into the game. Marchy's the same way that way."
The 20-year-old Marchand, currently riding on a wing with Rabbit and Jeremy Reich, has 16 goals and 37 assists for 53 points, second among AHL rookies to Portland's Tim Kennedy (67). But while Marchand has shown good wheels and decent hands, his mouth is what defines him as a player. On Friday, Manchester's Marty Murray, Andrew Campbell, and Josh Kidd were among the recipients of Marchand's barbs.
Even during rookie camp, Marchand got teammate Jordan Knackstedt so riled up that the two of them dropped the gloves in practice.
"That's his game," Murray said. "I'm not going to hold him back from that because that's what I did. That's what made me effective as a player. I know how much he irritates the other team. Maybe later in the season here, guys are going to start taking punches at him and we'll get power plays."
The Bruins don't have a shift disturber on the big-league roster. If the 5-foot-9, 187-pound Marchand (61 penalty minutes) can stay under control, agitate his opponents, and play a responsible game, he could fill that role in Boston next season or in 2010-11.
"I don't know that Boston really wants him to be a Steve Ott or a Sean Avery-type guy," said Murray, citing two of the game's most notorious agitators. "I think it's part of his game. It's an intangible in his game. He [ticks] guys off so much. He doesn't pull any punches with the stuff he says. In saying that, with guys like Ott and Avery, you're going to have to back it up. He's had two fights this season. He's a tough kid. It's not like he's going to shy away from it."
ANALYSIS: A high-energy pest with offensive skills... A third- or fourth-line NHLer... Could fall into the category of Jarkko Ruutu, Maxim Lapierre, or Patrick Kaleta, several of the Northeast Division's most effective agitators... Might be in line for NHL duty next season.