Brad Marchand continues to put his suspension in the rear-view mirror.
Heading into the 2015-16 season, the Bruins’ coaching and management staff were looking at Marchand as someone who they wanted to see step up and develop into a bigger role with the club.
The Bruins weren’t looking for Marchand, who’d scored 20 goals in each of his past three seasons, to increase his offensive input, although they wouldn’t complain if he did. Instead, they were looking for Marchand to become more of a leader—both on and off the ice.
“I think he wants to really be a good example this year,’’ Bruins head coach Claude Julien said during training camp. “He’s come in with a real good attitude, thinking it’s time for him to step up and take an even bigger role than before.
“He’s always been a pretty good guy in the dressing room as far as the things that have to be done in order to win, whether it’s trying to rally the guys or that kind of stuff. But he’s taken that next step, again. And again, leading by example is always a great way to do it.’’
With David Krejci out of the lineup due to an upper-body injury, Marchand was given Krejci’s “A’’ as one of the two Bruins’ alternate captains in a wild 7-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators back on December 29.
A game that should have been remembered for Marchand’s hard work and changed attitude finally paying off was instead remembered for something else, something Marchand has been too well known for: pushing the envelope too far.
Marchand ruffled feathers and struck the attention of the league when he clipped Senators’defenseman Mark Borowiecki. Marchand was not penalized for the play in the game, but was later suspended by the league for three games, the third suspension of his career.
With all eyes on Gillette Stadium and the 2016 Winter Classic three days later, the Bruins came out completely flat and were totally embarrassed by the Montreal Canadiens. Much like returning forward Brandon Gallagher did for the Canadiens, the Bruins sure could have used the spark Marchand brings night in and night out in a game where they showed no fight. Instead, Marchand was stuck watching from the press box.
With 11 games under his belt since his return from suspension, Marchand has been out to prove that he indeed is a changed player and can lead the team both on and off the ice like many had hoped for.
On the ice, Marchand has let his play do the talking.
Marchand has seven goals in those 11 games and has scored at least one goal in all but one of his last seven games.
“I like his production,’’ Julien told the media following Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. “I think as a group, including him, we’ve got to get better without the puck. So he’s a guy we can rely on to score some goals. He’s been really effective that way, and it’s a good thing we have him, because he’s one of the consistent ones when it comes to that department.’’
Despite scoring his team-leading 21st and 22nd goals Tuesday night in a game that saw the Bruins blow a two-goal third period lead, Marchand chose to shy away from his two-goal performance and touch upon the big picture and the big issue haunting the team.
“Yeah it’s really clear. You know with the way things are right now in the standings you can’t give up points like that and it’s what it’s going to come down to at the end of the year,’’ said Marchand. “You know every point right now is huge.’’
As the Bruins continue to fight among the bubble playoff teams for playoff positioning, a young squad will continue to rely on Marchand to be one of the teams’ leaders.
Marchand’s suspension is the lone blemish on what’s been a great year thus far for the 27 year-old. He’s on pace on set a career high in goals, exceeding the 28 he scored in the 2011-12 season.
Marchand can continue to be that pesky agitator that he’s been his whole career, but he also has to learn how to stay on the right side of the line. He certainly has the tools to be the type of leader he and the Bruins want him to be. It all comes down to whether or not Marchand can put the stuff that has gotten him in trouble in the past to the side and continue to lead by example.
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