Brad Marchand has certainly dealt with a lot so far this season both on and off the ice. Whether it was a borderline dirty hit or the pronunciation of his name, it seemed like not a day went by that the “big ball of hate” did not find himself under some sort of scrutiny. By far the most disconcerting thing this year about Marchand’s play is his lack of production, taking him from a “big ball of hate” to just a “big ball” on the ice, contributing very little to the team.
The Boston Bruins leading scorer last year struggled for most of this year, but has had a reemergence as of late, scoring six goals in his last four games. Marchand’s recent improvement has come at a great time for the Bruins who have faced the last two Stanley Cup winners in consecutive games. Their latest game came against the LA Kings, who beat the Bruins in LA 11 days earlier, 4-2. The outcome this time around was much different with Boston beating the Kings 3-2, and it was due in large part to the play of Marchand.
As you would expect, the game was very tight throughout with each team playing hard hitting defense. The Bruins were able to capitalize on a couple opportunities in the first period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Both goals came with their special team units on the ice which is a good sign because both their power-play and penalty kill had been mediocre for a stretch.
Their first goal came while they were down a man, and it took an incredible effort from Marchand to do so. Patrice Bergeron started the play with a nice pass to Marchand who was waiting at the Bruins blue line. From there it was all Marchand as he beat Kings defenseman Drew Doughty one-on-one. Although he was not able to score after the move past Doughty, he stuck with it and corralled a poor clearing attempt by LA at the right faceoff circle. Going one-on-four, Marchand toe dragged past a Kings defenseman and went backhand-forehand to beat goalie Jonathan Quick five hole. Later in the period Torey Krug put Boston up 2-0 with a power-play goal off a slap shot from above the left faceoff circle.
Give credit to the Kings however as they did not let their early hole stop them from putting pressure on Boston. Early in the second period LA cut the deficit in half when Willie Mitchell skated down the slot and scored on a snap shot. No one on the ice for Boston picked up Mitchell as he skated down from his defensive position and Chad Johnson had no chance to save it. Defensive breakdowns like the one on Mitchell’s goal have been the main cause of Boston’s inconsistencies on the defensive end.
After a power-play goal by Jeff Carter tied the game up at two, it appeared that all the momentum had shifted to the Kings. Less than 20 seconds after Carter’s goal however, the momentum had shifted right back to Boston and once again it was the regenerated “big ball of hate” that had regained lead.
Some good work behind the Kings net by Patrice Bergeron allowed Reilly Smith to find Marchand with a pass across the ice. The controversial winger was waiting for the pass next to the right faceoff dot and beat Quick with a one timer. Boston was able to hold on to that one goal lead and cap off an impressive win over one of the best teams in the NHL.
The reemergence of Brad Marchand has been a big reason why the Bruins have righted the ship here after a lackluster showing on their west coast road trip. Marchand’s playmaking ability, which he showed on his league-leading fourth shorthanded goal, along with his sniping ability really helps get the second line going for Boston. As his centerman Bergeron said, their line really feeds off of Marchand when he gets on a roll like he is now.
Boston will have a few days to rest and practice as their next game is not until Saturday when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers (25-20-6) in Philadelphia at 1 PM. I expect Marchand and the entire second line of the Bruins to continue their recent good play.