Brad Marchand Making Most of Opportunities, Could Give Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture a Run for Calder Trophy

Brad Marchand Making Most of Opportunities, Could Give Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture a Run for Calder Trophy Two years ago, the Bruins dominated the NHL's annual awards night in Las Vegas, with Tim Thomas winning the Vezina, Zdeno Chara the Norris and Claude Julien the Jack Adams. Last year, Boston came away empty-handed, but this year they have a chance to make a few more trips up to the podium between Chaka Khan performances. Over the course of the All-Star break, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will look at the chances for several Bruins to bring some hardware home from Vegas after this season. First up, has Brad Marchand put himself in the conversation for the Calder?

BOSTON — Coming into the season, Brad Marchand was just hoping to earn a spot with the big club after splitting the previous season between Providence and Boston.

Even once he secured a spot on the team out of camp, Marchand was positioned on the fourth line with veteran grinders Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton, where he was expected to provide energy and get under the opposition's skin with his agitation.

He certainly wasn't expected to be the best rookie on the team, let alone be in the conversation for the top rookie in the league. He still has a long way to go for that latter goal, but he's already come much closer than almost everyone would have anticipated. Everyone other than Marchand himself, of course.

"At the start of the year, I just wanted to be that role player, energy guy and just help in any way I could," Marchand said. "As the season went on, I don't know what point it would have been, we started making plays with our line with Soupy and Thorty, and after that, we started getting some points and the confidence went up a bit. Around November or so I started to feel that I could maybe do a little more than expected and help in some more ways offensively."

Marchand felt confident enough to make a bold prediction to his coach.

"He told me at some point he was going to score 20 for us this year, and I think he had two goals and we were getting close to that halfway mark, right?" Bruins coach Claude Julien recalled. "And I told him he had to pick it up, and he answered the call pretty good."

Marchand has certainly picked it up. Earlier this month, he earned a promotion to a scoring line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, and in 11 games on that line, Marchand has been a point-a-game player with 7-4-11 totals.

Overall, he has 13-12-25 totals, ranking him sixth in the league among rookies in goals and ninth in points. He has a long way to go to catch up with some of this year's brightest first-year stars, and a real run at the Calder Trophy is unlikely. The likes of Carolina's Jeff Skinner (18-22-40), San Jose's Logan Couture (22-11-33) and Edmonton's Taylor Hall (16-15-31), not to mention Colorado defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim blueliner Cam Fowler, who each have 26 points, and Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (21-6-3, 2.42 GAA), certainly have the inside track in the Calder chase.

But Marchand does add some other elements and intangibles to at least make a case for consideration. He leads all rookies and is seventh overall in the league with a plus-21 rating, and he also leads the entire NHL with four shorthanded goals. Marchand is seventh among rookies in hits with 59 and second in shooting percentage (15.5 percent).

Most amazing of all, he's done all that while ranking 64th among rookies in average ice time at just 13:07 a game. And while most of the other top rookies log plenty of time on the power pay to pad their stats, Marchand has played just 9:57 all season on the man advantage, coming out to a whopping average of just 12 seconds per game.

Still, that wasn't enough to even garner an invite to the rookie skills competition at this weekend's All-Star Game, not even as a replacement when Edmonton's Jordan Eberle had to withdraw with an injury.

"I never even thought about it," Marchand said. "I'm not too worried about that. It might be fun and if it happened it would have been, but I'm not going to stress about it."

Marchand then added he wouldn't want to face teammate Tyler Seguin in such an event anyway.

"I don't want to go in a skills competition with him," Marchand said. "He'd dominate me."

That's a rare lapse in Marchand's usually indomitable confidence, a self-assurance that not even last year's struggles with the big club could shake coming into this season.

"I was always confident that I could play in this league," said Marchand, who had no goals and just one assist in 20 games in Boston in 2009-10. "It's difficult when you really want to get your opportunity and you don't show what you can do. But even last year when I was up, I didn't really take advantage of it. I was a little nervous and hesitant at times. But this year I wanted to make more of the opportunity when I came in. I didn't want to let it slide."

Marchand's made the most of his chances this season. It may not be enough to earn him that coveted Calder, but he's at least shown he's worthy of being in the discussion.

Next up, will this finally be the year that Patrice Bergeron gets recognized for his strong defensive work with a Selke nomination?

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