Mike Babcock is well aware his team must shut down one of the hottest players in hockey in a relative must-win for his team.
Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs welcome Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins to the Air Canada Centre on Monday night in a game with sizable playoff implications for both Atlantic Division teams. Atop Babcock’s keys to victory should be slowing Marchand, who on Monday earned NHL First Star of the Week honors for his performance last week.
Marchand is having a career season and has entered the Hart Trophy conversation with his play of late. In his last five games, the Bruins winger has seven goals and four assists, a stretch in which Boston has won four games. Marchand’s 37 goals are three behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead, and he’s only one point behind Crosby and Connor McDavid for the league lead in points.
Babcock saw Marchand’s continued evolution firsthand before the 2016-17 season began as head coach of Team Canada. Marchand, playing alongside Crosby and B’s teammate Patrice Bergeron, posted 5-3-8 totals in six games while helping the Canadians to a gold medal.
Babcock jokingly took credit for Marchand’s success Monday while also heaping plenty of praise on the Boston agitator.
Babcock probably wouldn’t mind if Marchand slowed things down for one night at least.