Bergeron and Marchand each missed Boston’s last two games. The former is nursing an upper-body injury but could rejoin the Bruins to close out their four-game road trip this week. The latter has four more games to serve of his six-game suspension for punching Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristian Jarry pending an appeal.
Any team losing their top two players would encounter difficulties filling the voids from within. But this isn’t exactly new territory for the Bruins. Heck, they entered the new year hoping for one or more would step up during a transitional period.
The Bruins said goodbye to Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Kevan Miller over the last 24 months. Bergeron and Marchand are the only two members remaining from Boston’s Cup-winning squad in 2011.
With Bergeron’s captaincy and Marchand’s role as the team’s primary alternate captain secured, the Bruins decided to rotate the second ‘A’ following Krejci’s departure for his native Czech Republic. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and David Pastrnak all took turns serving in that role following their progression from promising prospects to reliable core members during their tenures.
“You can tell the difference when you walk in the room. Those foundational pieces, not all of them are here anymore,”‘ Carlo said during training camp. “We need to step up and take our knowledge and the things that we learned from them over the past couple of years.
Amid a season full of ups and downs, the aforementioned tier of leaders has made their voices heard. They’ve performed to expectations from Marchand’s proclamation on the next group of Boston’s leaders heading into the 2021-22 campaign.
“It’s big, and it’s kind of forced upon you at that point,” Marchand said. “And those guys are ready for it; there’s no question.”
Marchand forced the Bruins’ hand with his second suspension of the season. Bergeron’s injury following an awkward collision with Sidney Crosby threw another wrinkle into Boston’s latest bout of adversity.
The effort from the first game without Bergeron and Marchand against the uber-talented Carolina Hurricanes left a bitter taste in the Bruins’ mouth. Even in one of their worst outings of the season, McAvoy led by example after dropping the gloves with Tony DeAngelo moments after delivering a clean hit to the Carolina defenseman.
Two days later, a ticked-off Bruins bunch bounced back against the lowly Ottawa Senators. They only scored a pair of goals following a stellar effort from Sens netminder Matt Murray. But they remained vocal and aware of the situation at hand.
The events caught Cassidy’s attention surrounding McAvoy and Carlo.
“I can hear them. They’re vocal in there,” Cassidy said following Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “Carlo the other day stepped up late in the game about reminding guys to finish the game the right way. It’s something Bergy would’ve said over the years, or Zee [Chara] or Miller on the back end. I thought Charlie’s leadership against Carolina was excellent to start the game. He was playing hard, physical, drew penalties and [had] good discipline.”
The in-game scenarios provide a good litmus test. But a player’s work ethic showcases itself beyond the x’s and o’s in a 60-minute tilt.
McAvoy, Carlo, Pastrnak and the other supporting cast members from years past watched how Marchand, Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Krug, Miller and Rask set forth a foundational environment through their on and off ice training sessions. They’ve carried over that blueprint with Bergeron and Marchand easing their way back toward their respective returns.
“I think they’re coming along. I think their work ethic in practice is strong. Charlie is a lot better than maybe his first year in terms of being on time and focused,” Cassidy said. “And that’s the other part of being a good leader is guys come in here and [ask] ‘okay, how are things done around here.’ Well, practice is work. We mean business around here, and they’ve been excellent at that as well.”
The habits established from those practices helped the Bruins stay afloat. Through all their times of turmoil, they’ve yet to lose three games in a row.
They’ll need upgrades at the trade deadline, primarily a top-six center and a top-four left-shot defenseman. But the next wave of Bruins leaders won’t hesitate to welcome any potential newcomers with open arms.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.