BOSTON — Throughout a rather remarkable rookie season, Bruins forward Brad Marchand has done a lot to make coach Claude Julien proud of how far the young winger has progressed on the path toward becoming a top-flight NHL player.
Marchand has also made sure that Julien always keeps a full supply of antacids on hand.
Thursday night at the Garden in a 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto, Marchand had both sides of his always-entertaining game on display.
At 2:09 of the second period, Marchand got Boston on the board with a highlight-reel shorthanded goal to even the game at 1-1 and give the Bruins a much-needed spark. Boston scored again less than a minute later and eventually went into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
The Bruins couldn't hold that lead though, and part of the reason may have been a little extra incentive Marchand gave the Leafs late in the second period. As things got nasty in the closing minutes with a series of scrums, Marchand got into it with the Toronto bench as he skated off.
The verbal jabs escalated to Marchand making a golf swing motion at the Leafs. It was an obvious reference to what the Leafs will likely be doing in a couple of weeks, as they are just barely alive in the playoff race, but the gesture infuriated the Toronto bench and didn't sit well with Marchand's own boss either.
"Yeah, that was a little immature of me," Marchand, 22, said. "I shouldn't have done that."
And after hearing all about it between periods, Marchand isn't likely to pull out his "clubs" on the ice again.
"I got a little bit of an earful," Marchand admitted. "It won't happen again."
After the game, Julien admitted it's an ongoing process to rein in Marchand's emotions while still allowing him to be an effective agitator.
"I mean, it's just, he's been a good player for us and again, his emotions sometimes can be a positive, but sometimes you don't want to cross the line and certainly you don't like that when that happens," Julien said. "So it's just a learning process."
Marchand agreed with that assessment and admitted he has been stepping over the line a bit too much of late.
"I think it's a big part [of my game]," Marchand said of being an agitator. "It just kind of gets me emotionally involved and brings a different element. But at the same time you don't want to cross the line and I've doing that a bit lately. It can go either way, so you have to make sure you walk that line.
"It's tough, because a lot of it is heat of the moment stuff," added Marchand, who was suspended for two games for an elbow to Columbus forward R.J. Umberger's head earlier this month. "I think I have a good idea where the line is. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me. I think the biggest thing to do is to make sure I can control my emotions better. I think that's what I have to work on. It's not so much knowing where the line is, but controlling my emotions."
It's tough for Julien as well, because Marchand has developed into such an important player. He doesn't just bring a physical presence and an ability to get under the skin of the opposition. He also has plenty of skill, as his 21 goals this season attest.
Thursday's tally was one of his prettiest, as he broke in down the left wing after stealing the puck from Clarke MacArthur, shielded MacArthur from the puck as he cut to the front and flipped a backhander over Toronto goalie James Reimer.
"I just came off the bench and tried to take an angle and he passed it right on my stick," Marchand said. "I just wanted to drive the net. I knew it was a forward coming back on me so I wanted to try to cut in and the puck kind of popped out there in the open and I just backhanded it in."
The goal was Marchand's fifth shorthanded tally this season. Not bad for a guy who never had one before this year, though he also stressed that scoring is never his priority when down a man.
"I don't think I ever scored a shorthanded goal before this year," Marchand said. "It's nice any time you get those. When you're on the PK you want to kill it off more than you want to score, but sometimes you get lucky breaks and you're put in a situation to score. But when you go on the ice you're not looking to score."
Marchand, who also had an assist on Boston's third goal, has found a way to score plenty this season, and in all kinds of situations. He's also proven he can find all kinds of interesting new ways to drive both the opposition, and his coaches, crazy.
It's all part of the package with Marchand, and seeing the young player develop into a legitimate two-way threat is worth dealing with the occasional bouts of youthful exuberance along the way.