Brad Marchand has made plenty of enemies across the NHL, as he plays on the edge — sometimes over it — and has a knack for getting under his opponents’ skin. But sharing a dressing room with the “little ball of hate” can change one’s perspective.
Just ask defenseman Nick Holden, who’s become a huge Marchand fan since joining the Boston Bruins in a trade with the New York Rangers.
“For a guy who has the scoring ability that he does, it’s amazing to see him work so hard,” Holden told reporters Tuesday night after Marchand’s hat trick lifted the Bruins to a 6-5 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. “It’s funny watching him from this side now. When you played against him, you hated (him) because of the way he plays. But when he’s on your team, you love it because of the way he plays.”
That’s a perfect summary of Marchand’s reputation — want to play with him, don’t want to play against him — and it’s part of what makes the Bruins winger such a dynamic player. He totaled five points in Tuesday’s win (three goals; two assists) and scored the game-winning goal in overtime, but he also played with his trademark nastiness, mixing it up with Justin Abdelkader and getting called for a (questionable) slashing call following a brief battle with Gustav Nyquist to begin the third period.
“I think they were trying to get to him, and I think he did a good job with that,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters. “I didn’t see the call he got for a slash. Those ones where they call at center ice and get one guy are kind of annoying to a coach because clearly they’re jabbing each other and you’re like, ‘Really?’ It has no effect on the play. But they’re sending their messages. Sometimes when games get out of hand, you’ll see those calls. We’ll take a look at it, but I think he did a good job. He’s going to be targeted every night, and he has to get used to that.”
Marchand already served a suspension earlier this season for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson — the sixth suspension of the 29-year-old’s career — and the Bruins can’t afford to lose him again, especially as they deal with injuries to center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Charlie McAvoy and goaltender Tuukka Rask.
If Marchand can control his tenacity and successfully tiptoe the line without crossing it, there are few players capable of making a bigger impact or ruffling more feathers.
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