He’s become one of the prolific goal scorers in the National Hockey League over the last three seasons, yet Brad Marchand’s on-ice reputation is overshadowing his stature as one of the league’s upper-echelon talents.
With three straight 30-goal seasons, Marchand has put himself in the discussion among the league’s elite. The veteran leads all players in plus/minus (plus-73), shorthanded points (15), game-winning goals (22) and overtime winners (8, tied with Jeff Carter) and sits second in goals (109) trailing only Alex Ovechkin (121) since his first 30-goal campaign in 2015-16.
Marchand was just getting warmed up in 2015-16 with his 37-goal season. He followed that up with 39 goals and 85 points in 2016-17 and earned himself a place in the Hart Trophy discussion.
This season might just be Marchand’s most impressive yet. Yes, Marchand does sit tied for 14th in points (80) and tied for 12th in goals (33), but sits second in points per game (1.33) and first in overtime goals (5) in 60 games played. Those numbers amount to an aggregate 109 points and 45 goals on an 82-game pace. That would put Marchand fifth in goals (behind Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Patrik Laine and Nathan McKinnon) and second in points behind MacKinnon per 82 games.
His numbers are quite impressive, but the way Marchand performed without Patrice Bergeron and several other key players during the injury-plagued run is what sets him apart from the other names on the list. The eighth-year veteran arguably played the best hockey of his career without his dynamic partner tallying 20 points (9 goals, 11 assists) during a 12-game stretch that included three straight game winners.
Having a talented and creative playmaker on his off-wing in David Pastrnak also helps, but Marchand didn’t miss a beat during this time with Riley Nash — and David Krejci in late-game moments — handling top-line center duties in Bergeron’s absence.
“Yeah, he just keeps on ticking,” Bruce Cassidy said about Marchand after the latter notched his third straight game-winner against the Flyers back on March 8. “You know, him and Pasta [Pastrnak] have done a nice job without Bergy [Patrice Bergeron], and so has Riley Nash filling in there, and Krech [Krejci]; we switched it up a little bit late. But, that’s Brad. He seems like he’s on a bit of a mission with Bergy out that he wants to pick the team up in the offensive part of it.”
Marchand and the Bruins kept on ticking in the win column. Their 10-2-2 run in their last 14 games puts them within two points of Nikita Kucherov (another Hart Trophy favorite) and the Tampa Bay Lightning with a game in hand. Marchand and Kucherov will be front and center when the B’s and Bolts meet twice in the final weeks of the season, including Thursday night at TD Garden.
Any Hart Trophy discussion involving Marchand would’ve been a good subplot in the final two weeks of the regular season. His numbers and his clutch moments are usually worthy of such.
For all the stellar play from Marchand, there’s another side to the discussion that also deserves recognition. And that is where, to no surprise, he may be on the outside looking in of a top-five vote for the second straight year.
All it took was one elbow to the head to Devils forward Marcus Johansson for Marchand’s reputation to be put into question again. That moment late in the B’s 3-2 win on Jan. 23 earned Marchand a five-game ban for his sixth career suspension.
If there was any player who can make the case for Marchand not getting any Hart consideration, it’s Johansson. The veteran winger joined the Devils at practice on Monday for the first time since suffering a concussion from Marchand’s elbow and had every reason to be upset over losing two months worth of time.
Here are #NJDevils Marcus Johansson's unabridged thoughts on the Bruins' Brad Marchand hit that left him with a 2nd concussion in 3 months. This is one of the most honest, raw and thorough takedowns of another NHL player/a dirty hit as you'll see. pic.twitter.com/sjgTuLqHe8
— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) March 26, 2018
There’s also the fact that Marchand missed nine additional games because of injury, though that hasn’t stopped a deserving McKinnon from entering the Hart discussion after a nine-game absence.
Marchand’s reputation of late has been put into question with several missed calls from the officials. The most recent example came when Jamie Benn left his feet and hit Marchand high during Friday’s Bruins-Stars tilt.
He hasn’t gotten the benefit of the doubt from the guys in stripes, and likely won’t get the same treatment from some of the Hart Trophy voters. The Bruins know how valuable Marchand is to their dressing room, but it will take a rather clean repertoire for any serious Hart recognition.