From winning a Stanley Cup in 2011 to an All-Star game appearance and representing Team Canada during international competition – most recently at this year’s World Cup of Hockey – Brad Marchand’s accolades already speak volumes.
The last two years, however, has seen Marchand enter the discussion among the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (to name a few) among the NHL’s brightest stars. One year removed from notching a career-high 37 goals, Marchand is on pace to shatter that mark. His 70 points in 67 games (and counting) already surpassed his career best of 61 set in 2015-16.
Averaging a little more than a point per game, Marchand sits in the top-five in both goals and points. Over the last few weeks under the guidance of interim coach Bruce Cassidy, he is unquestionably playing the best hockey of his career. Not only is he producing on the stat sheet (15 points in 12 games since Cassidy took over), but the 28-year-old is becoming more of a scoring threat every time he touches the puck.
Now in his seventh full season with the Bruins, Marchand has seen an increased role in every situation imaginable. His work ethic since coming to Boston also has a lot to do in how the Bruins view him as a reliable commodity both on and off the ice.
“Well, I mean, I don’t want to go through the whole locker room but he is clearly one of our hardest workers every day. This isn’t just what you’re seeing on game days, this is practice, the way he prepares to play off ice. So it’s certainly not a surprise with the timing and effort he’s put into improving his game, both on and off the ice,” Cassidy said about Marchand after the Bruins’ 6-1 win over the Red Wings on Wednesday.
“And he’s a leader on our team, he’s a guy we rely on to play in all situations. We’ve built up his power play role this year, that’s helped his offensive game as well – those little games around the net. But the other parts of his game – his penalty killing has always been solid, he can play against anybody, will play against anybody and can probably play with anybody. I know he’s been with Bergy [for] a long time and they’re a good pair.”
Developing into an elite player doesn’t come overnight. Marchand found out about that first hand during his first few years under Claude Julien.
There’s no denying that he’s always had the skillset to become a consistent scoring threat. At times, however, that skillset would be overlooked whenever he was handed supplemental discipline by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. From his slew-foot on Sens defenseman Mark Borowiecki just prior to last year’s Winter Classic to clipping Sami Salo during the first Bruins-Canucks rematch after the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Marchand’s history of supplementary discipline has been well documented across the National Hockey League.
He nearly got banned for a few games again earlier this year after slew footing Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and Lightning blue-liner Anton Stralman in consecutive weeks. Instead, he was only given a $10,000 fine for the Kronwall incident.
“That’s a little stupidity there, a little unnecessary,” Marchand said about slew-footing Kronwall shortly after his phone hearing with the league in late-January. “I can play the game without doing that stuff. I just have to be aware of it all the time.”
Hours following the hearing, Marchand put the Bruins on his back against the Penguins tallying a pair of goals in an emotional win over the defending Stanley Cup champions.
On that night especially, David Backes had an idea on what led to Marchand’s performance.
“He skated like he was ten thousand dollars lighter today,” the former Blues captain said about Marchand after the B’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. “He was flying around, you know doing what he does best, creating offense and holding onto the puck; I thought he was really focused on playing the game, playing the game the right way and playing it hard. I’ve told him that before that if I’m playing against him I want him jabbing and poking me and thinking about how he’s going to get me back instead of thinking about he’s going to put the puck into the net.”
More often than not over the last two years, Marchand has been more of an asset and less of a liability.
Marchand’s fearless brand of hockey and skillset are the main reasons why he earned the nickname of “Little Ball of Hate.” Every other team hates to play against him but would love to have him representing their squad.
His performances of late have put him in elite company with the Crosby’s, Malkin’s McDavid’s and Ovechkin’s of the hockey world. Off the ice, his humble and outgoing personality resonates throughout Boston.
Which is why it wasn’t surprising to hear Marchand’s response when asked if he considers himself an elite player.
“I think I’m playing with elite players in our group,” Marchand said about playing with fellow Bruins past and present. “You’re expected to play at the same level as those guys, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with those players for a long time now. When you learn from Bergy, Zee [Zdeno Chara] and in previous years [Mark] Recchi, Chris Kelly and Andrew Ference, you learn to be a pro. And it just shows the leadership that we’ve had over past years to help the young guys grow, and fortunately, I’ve been put in a position where things are going well and I’m blessed to be a part of this organization for a long time.”
Six more years of Marchand to be exact after he signed a contract extension during the World Cup.
In the short-term, 15 games remain for the Black and Gold in their quest to return to the postseason after a two-year absence. As he continues to put the B’s on his back and enter the Hart Trophy discussion, Marchand is one of the main reasons why the team is in position to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“You know, we can’t lose multiple games in a row, that’s a big key, having bounce back games and guys are showing up right now so that’s what we need going down the stretch,” Marchand said about bouncing back after a loss to the Sens and the road ahead. “With 15 games or so left, we need to make sure we’re consistent down the stretch and we’re not losing, like you said, multiple games.”