BOSTON — Brad Marchand projects an image of unwavering confidence. A little guy who plays a big man's game. A brash rookie who's putting up some mighty big numbers in his first taste of NHL postseason action.
But not everything is always as it seems with the Bruins winger.
"I'm definitely nervous, I just try to hide it pretty well," Marchand said prior to Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Flyers in Game 3 of Boston's second-round series. "I think the first round was where I kind of got my nerves out of the way. The first few games I was really nervous right off the bat. Now I'm starting to calm down a bit and just try to focus on playing."
Calming down, of course, may mean something different to Marchand than to most others. He proceeded to set up the game's first goal with a pass out to Zdeno Chara for a strike just 30 seconds into play, then dished out a game-high seven hits. One of those sent Flyers forward Ville Leino flying deep in the Philadelphia zone as Marchand helped the Bruins kill off an early penalty.
"It was one of those games where I was angry the whole time, and my emotions kind of got the best of me, just trying to run around and kill guys," Marchand explained after the game. "So just one of those games. It's not like that every night, but [Wednesday] was one of those nights."
Marchand thrives on playing on the edge. It's a barely controlled fury, but it usually leaves the opposition more angry than Marchand. And he can get tempers boiling in any number of ways, upsetting opponents equally with his physical play, non-stop chirping and ability to hurt them even more on the scoreboard.
"Marchand is a young player and the way he has contributed, and I know he gets under other teams' skins, but at the same time, he still contributes on the scoresheet," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's been a really effective player for us."
How effective? Marchand leads all rookies in playoff scoring with 4-6-10 totals through 10 games, and is tied for the league lead with a plus-9 rating. He's just the third rookie in the last decade to score 10 or more points in the playoffs, and the second round is not even over. The other two players to accomplish the feat in the last 10 years are also in this series, as Leino had 21 points in 19 games for the Flyers last year and Philadelphia forward Kris Versteeg had 12 points in 17 games with the Blackhawks in 2009.
Marchand could challenge the franchise record for rookie playoff scoring if the Bruins stay alive long enough. Barry Pederson holds the current mark with 18 points in 1982.
"I think Brad has gotten much better," Julien said. "There is always room for improvement, but he is so much better at being able to ride that fine line. And he's one of those guys that can be a pest, but he's also a very good hockey player and we need him as much on the ice as anything else. But you never want to take away one of the things that he does well and you have to let him do it. And as long as he doesn't cross the line, I have no issues with that."
Marchand has crossed the line a few times this season, getting suspended two games for an elbow to the head of Columbus forward R.J. Umberger and drawing heat for making a golf swing motion to the Toronto bench late in the year. But he's stayed on the right side of the line for the most part, with a little help from his linemates, veterans Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron.
"If you had one of them on your line it would be unbelievable, but the two of them together, it's great," Marchand said. "Bergy is so good fundamentally and he does every little thing in the game right. … I feel really comfortable with Bergy. I talk with him a lot. The two of them both talk to me a lot. If there's something Rex doesn't tell, then Bergy will tell me."
Where Bergeron leads by example, Recchi is more forceful with the verbal instructions when needed.
"If I do something stupid, he'll let me know," Marchand said. "There's been times when he's had to tell me to settle down or get in my ear a little bit. He knows exactly what to say and when to say it."
Marchand doesn't mind the occasional criticisms. He admitted he still finds himself awestruck at times to be sharing a dressing room with the future Hall of Famer and balks at making any comparison between himself and Recchi beyond their similarly diminutive statures.
"He's one of the top players to ever play the game, so I'm not even going to come close to comparing myself to him," Marchand said. "He's such an unbelievable player. I think the only comparison is we're both kind of short. The way he sees the ice and reads the play, I learn more every game and it's a treat being on his line."
Marchand didn't get that opportunity a year ago. He was up with the team throughout its playoff run, but never appeared in a playoff game as he remained with the Black Aces. It was difficult to see the team squander a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers without being able to get on the ice to try to help, but Marchand showed his maturity in recognizing he probably wasn't ready to make an impact in the playoffs last year.
"It was in my mind, but last year I don't think I was really in the position to help the team," Marchand said. "When I was up for 20 games I didn't make a big impact. It would have been a tough position for me to come in and change a whole lot and be a factor. I think the biggest thing was just to be there and go through it and gain that little bit of experience coming into this year."
Marchand had no goals and just one assist in 20 games last season. This year, he broke out with 21-20-41 totals in 77 games and was determined to carry that success into the playoffs.
"I want to [make a difference this year]," Marchand said. "Every time I'm on the ice I want to help the team any way I can. It is different than last year. I'm being put out there in positions where I need to help the team. I want to continue to try in every way."
It's Marchand's first taste of NHL playoff action, but he is no stranger to postseason success. He won a pair of gold medals with Canada in the World Junior Championships in 2007 and 2008, won a QMJHL title with Moncton in 2006 and led the QMJHL in playoff scoring with 16-24-40 totals in just 20 games with Val d'Or in 2007. He added 19 points in 14 playoff games with Halifax in 2008 and had 15 points in 16 games in his only pro playoff appearance with Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence in 2009.
"I haven't played playoffs in the NHL before, but I've played in the playoffs in every other level and I've gone deep, I've won championships," Marchand said. "So I feel good in the postseason. I'm comfortable in those situations. I want to play in the postseason. It's the best time of the year and that's what you wait for all year long. When you get to that point, you don't want to let it slide. You don't want to let it slip, because you may never get another opportunity like the one we have this year. I just want to make the most of it."
Powered by WordPress.com VIP