Was it any surprise that the Boston Bruins topped the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs? The way the series played out, maybe, but, going in, most fans probably believed in the hometown team.
Naturally, though, any series is going to provide a surprise or two after a grueling couple of weeks.
Nathan Horton's two overtime winners? Can that ever really be predicted? Well, no. But if you had to pick one guy to do it, would it have been Horton?
Milan Lucic's 30-goal regular season resulting in just two assists in the opening round? Not many people would have had Andrew Ference doubling Lucic's production in their crystal balls.
How about 0-for-21 on the power play, yet still winning the series? Jack Edwards is the only one who could really tell us all what that means in its deepest historical sense.
Then there’s Brad Marchand.
The rookie scored 21 goals and added 20 assists during the regular season on the way to earning the team's coveted 7th Player Award. Still, he's only in his second NHL season, first full campaign, and the gritty winger is participating in the postseason for the very first time on the grandest of stages.
Are you surprised he was nearly a point-per-game player in the first round? You shouldn't be.
Historically, no matter the level, playoff time is Marchand's time. Since his second junior hockey season in Moncton in 2006, the soon-to-be-23-year-old has simply been delivering when it's counted most.
During that 2005-06 campaign, Marchand scored five goals and totaled 19 points in 20 postseason contests, helping Ted Nolan's Wildcats to a President's Cup championship and runner-up honors in the Memorial Cup tournament.
The following year, well, the numbers were just plain outrageous. Marchand had moved on to the Val d'Or Foreurs, where he again appeared in 20 games, this time scoring 16 goals while adding 24 assists for a ridiculous 40 points, which was good for half of his regular season total in just a third of the games. His club would again reach the President's Cup finals, this time, though, falling in a 4-0 sweep to Lewiston.
The 2007-08 season brought yet another team for Marchand, but similar success, as he and Bruins "Black Ace" Andrew Bodnarchuk teamed up on the Halifax Mooseheads, where Marchand produced 16 assists and 19 points in 14 postseason clashes. Halifax fell a round short of Marchand's third straight trip to the President's Cup, but you certainly couldn't fault his efforts.
The then 20-year-old transitioned to the pro ranks the next year, and it was a banner season for the 2008-09 Providence Bruins. The year marked the last time the club has qualified for the postseason, and the P-Bruins advanced all the way to the AHL's final four before falling in five games to the eventual champion Hershey Bears. Marchand scored seven goals and amassed 15 points in 16 games as he once again took his team a few lucky bounces away from the finals.
Last year, the P-Bruins failed to make the playoffs, and Marchand, hard to imagine it now, had not quite proven himself enough to earn a spot in Boston's postseason line-up, leaving him to watch all 13 games from the press level.
Not this year. This year, Marchand has been every bit a reason for Boston's success over Montreal as anyone – other than maybe Tim Thomas.
Does that mean Marchand's appearance will lead Boston to at least the conference finals? Let's hope so, but leave those assumptions to the truly superstitious prognosticators.
This much we know -– with an exciting second round rematch with Philadelphia beginning on Saturday, Marchand's playoff contributions are likely only beginning.
After all, it's just what he does.
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