At what point does Bruins head coach Claude Julien strongly consider making Brad Marchand a healthy scratch to send a message to the young forward that his performance at both ends of the ice needs to be better?
If there was a time to make such a move, it’s the Bruins’ upcoming game against the rival New York Rangers on Black Friday.
Boston suffered its worst loss of the season on Wednesday night, falling to the Red Wings 6-1 at Joe Louis Arena.
Just about every player in the B’s lineup had a poor game, but for Marchand, it was one of many underwhelming performances during what has been a disappointing year. He was held scoreless for the 16th time this season and registered just two shots on goal. He also took a bad penalty in the second period by high-sticking Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.
There’s no question that Marchand is one of the team’s most talented players, evidenced by his team-leading 36 points last year and previous playoff heroics. But he’s only tallied nine points in 25 games this season and is struggling to find any consistency offensively. The Halifax native has scored only two goals in his last 23 games, with points in back-to-back games on just two occasions in that span. He’s also been a non-factor on the power play with zero points when Boston has had the man advantage. Marchand’s slump actually dates back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, when he was scoreless and earned a minus-three rating in his team’s six-game defeat to the Blackhawks.
As the chart below shows, Marchand had never posted as few as nine points through 25 games to begin a season until this year.
Not only is Marchand failing to provide consistent scoring production, he’s also not playing his normal agitating style of hockey or making much of an impact defensively. His 16 giveaways are the third-most on the team, and his 25 hits are the eighth-most among the club’s forwards.
Julien is loyal to his players, and it’s one of his strengths as a coach. He rarely scratches star players when they are failing to meet expectations and will instead allow them to play through a slump to get back on track. But in Marchand’s case, some time in the press box might provide the spark required for his game to turn around. He’s seen time on the fourth line this season, including the Nov. 18 game against Carolina, but it hasn’t led to any positive results.
The Bruins need Marchand to be the quality two-way player he’s shown in the past if they are going to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and return hockey’s ultimate prize to Boston. When he’s on top of his game, Boston is very difficult to beat.
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