If this is the Brad Marchand the Boston Bruins are going to get for the next nine years, the Black and Gold got an offseason bargain that would make your coupon-cutting, deal-hunting mother jealous.
The Bruins signed Marchand to an eight-year, $49 million contract extension three weeks ago, and the pesky winger wasted no time trying to earn his new chunk of change. Marchand scored two goals and had three assists for his second career five-point game in the Bruins’ 6-3 season debut Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Five-point nights obviously are going to be few and far between, but if Marchand comes anywhere close to matching that sort of productivity for the life of the contract, the Bruins certainly will be happy. Even if Marchand plays close to his career averages — in the neighborhood of 30 goals and 25 assists — he still could be a bargain, especially considering the other facets in which he contributes. He’s defensively responsible and is still one of the Bruins’ best penalty killers.
But there’s reason to believe Marchand is about to take the next step in his career. Other than the obvious — a career-high 37 goals last season and Thursday’s five-point outburst — the 28-year-old looks like he’s playing with an even greater level of confidence.
Marchand was one of the best players at the World Cup of Hockey, helping Canada win the gold medal. Playing on a line alongside Sidney Crosby and Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron, Marchand scored three goals to go along with two assists in four games. You could argue he was the best player on the ice not named Crosby.
The obvious retort, of course, is that there probably aren’t a lot of competent hockey players who wouldn’t look good next to Bergeron and Crosby, two of the best the NHL has to offer. And while that’s certainly the case, one needs to look no further than Marchand’s showing Thursday night.
With Bergeron out nursing a lower-body injury, Marchand skated on a line with 20-year-old David Pastrnak and veteran center David Backes, who was playing in his first game with the Bruins. Despite having the younger Pastrnak and playing his first game with Backes, Marchand still was the best player on the ice.
And it wasn’t just in the offensive zone, either, as Marchand and his linemates drove puck possession better than any of the Bruins’ other three lines against Columbus. Not only did the trio score all three goals, it combined for 18 shots on goal. And yes, we know, it was only one game, but Marchand’s Corsi relative percentage Thursday night was an absurd 17.1.
Again, it’s early, and we’ll need to temper expectations when it comes to Marchand after such an impressive season debut. But it’s not unrealistic to expect Marchand to take the next step of his career in 2016-17 — perhaps his first career All-Star Game appearance? — and solidify himself as one of the leaders on this team.
Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images