The Bruins openly admitted they came out flat against Buffalo on Thursday. They couldn't afford to do the same Saturday in Colorado. Fortunately for the Bruins, their little ball of energy made sure they didn't.
Brad Marchand, all 5-foot-9, 183 pounds of him, helped set a physical tone early with a huge hit on Matt Duchene, sending Colorado's young star flying. After that, Marchand spent the rest the afternoon hitting the scoresheet, as he put up his first career four-point game with two goals and two assists to lead Boston to a 6-2 win over the Avalanche.
"He keeps getting better all the time," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Marchand. "He's been a real good soldier for us since Day 1. The guys really like him. He brings a lot of energy to our hockey club and he competes hard every night."
Marchand, 22, came into camp without a guaranteed job after playing sparingly in 20 games last season, splitting the year between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence. He secured a spot on the fourth line, joining Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton and helping to make what Thornton dubbed the "merlot line" because of their maroon practice jerseys and arguably the club's most consistent and effective unit.
Injuries created a chance for Marchand to move up to a scoring line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. Even with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton returning from their ailments, Julien kept Marchand up on that unit. His faith was rewarded, as that line has been Boston's best of late, with Marchand putting up 6-4-10 totals over his last nine games.
"He's been wonderful," Recchi said. "Coming out of camp he's just worked his way up. You've got to give the kid a ton of credit. He's worked his tail off to earn ice time, to earn the trust of the coaching staff. That's not always easy, but he's done it. He's earned the trust of his teammates and he's fun to play with. He plays with a lot of energy and it's great. I've got to try to keep up with him."
The Colorado defense had trouble keeping up with Marchand on Saturday. After the Avalanche jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead, Marchand tied it at 9:20 in the first, sending the puck in from the top of the crease after Recchi's initial shot from the right wing was blocked.
Marchand returned the favor in the second as he stole the puck and began a 2-on-1 break with Recchi. Marchand came down the left side with the puck, faked the shot and at the last second sent it over to Recchi for an easy tap in.
"He sold everybody but me," said Recchi, a 22-year veteran who turns 43 on Feb 1. "I knew it was coming. He made a heck of a play and I told them if I missed that one I was taking off my equipment and retiring right there."
There was no worry about that, and the Bruins continued to pour on the offense. Milan Lucic scored a pair of goals for a new career high of 19 on the season. The Bergeron-Marchand-Recchi unit combined for four goals and 10 points, including Marchand's league-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season into an empty net to cap the scoring.
"Our forecheck was great and we're effective when we do that," Recchi said. "We create a lot of energy. We create a lot of opportunities because of it. [It's] three guys on the same page and we work hard and stay close together. Marshy made a heck of a play on my goal and it was a great goal by Bergy and the end to give us a 5-2 lead. We just have to keep playing that way."
They didn't start out like that though. It took a few shifts for the Bruins to get going, and Colorado took advantage with a Paul Stastny goal exactly two minutes in. Greg Campbell helped turn things around 57 seconds later as he took on Cody McLeod in a spirited bout to spark the Bruins, and Marchand and Co. took over from there.
"We had a great game tonight," said Marchand, who now has 12-12-24 totals and is a plus-21 in 45 games. "It really started with Soup [Campbell]. He started it off with a huge fight for us and we really came on after that. We played 60 minutes with great effort. Everyone was going."