Brad Marchand has deservedly earned heaps of praise for Hart Trophy consideration this season while leading the way for the Bruins each and every night, and now he’s brought this season’s MVP act to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After all of Boston’s best players didn’t quite have it in Saturday night’s Game 1 loss, Marchand and his Perfection Line partner Patrice Bergeron stepped up and blazed a trail in a 4-3 overtime Game 2 win over the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Monday night. It was Marchand that played the hockey hero role in overtime smashing a one-time pass from across the ice courtesy of Matt Grzelcyk, and then sprinting and leaping into a celebratory Boston Bruins bench with Taylor Hall waiting to catch him.
Brad Marchand wins it in overtime.
What a feed from Matt Grzelcyk. pic.twitter.com/iKWwCWl8hr
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 18, 2021
But it wasn’t just the OT game-winner that once again put Marchand’s full value on display for the hockey world to see. The Bruins left winger was playing with a combative attitude and dogged emotion throughout a game where the B’s didn’t get off to the most inspired start, and it became contagious to the rest of the club.
Sure, it led to a couple of Marchand penalties along the way, including iffy matching calls during a scrum between Marchand and Anthony Mantha that signaled the refs seizing control of the game. And it necessitated the occasional “heat check” conversation between longtime linemates during the game after Marchand’s second penalty.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 18, 2021
“That second [penalty] was a little soft. They probably could have just let that go on both sides, but it’s about being able to get back into the game. After that one I think the refs were sending a little bit of a message and it was received,” said Marchand. “Obviously Bergie in situations like that will grab me and reel me back in like he did.
“It’s just part of it. We’re on the biggest stage right now and I’ve got to stay out of the box in these games. It’s a good feeling to go back 1-1. We just seemed to have it a little more than last game. They’re playing tough and physical and not giving up much, so it was a good game to win.”
But Marchand’s brand of fire and brimstone also dragged the sluggish Bruins kicking and screaming into the battle against a rugged Capitals hockey club that’s not backing down in their first-round playoff series.
“I think he really wanted to drag us into the fight. We didn’t start on time and Brad really dragged us into the fight tonight,” Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said in the postgame Zoom call with the media. “He and Bergeron were guys that were going to do that. That’s just Brad. He’s matured enough to do that. In the past he might have let it get to him and he wouldn’t have been an effective player, but he found his game and was certainly a big part of the win. I don’t worry about Marchand. He’s going to periodically push back because he’s in the middle of everything, so he’s got to defend himself. He’s doing a lot better now in how he takes penalties. I’ve got a lot of faith, trust and loyalty in Brad and there is way, way more good than bad.
“Those guys really led: Bergy, Marchand Charlie [McAvoy] really got going too. They really came through for us. Everyone came to play. It was a little bit of a tough start as they came after us and we need to address that, but we really came through.”
There was little doubt, though, that once the game was on the line in overtime that Marchand was going to bring his best, and that was going to be good enough. It’s little surprise for a guy that finished with 29 goals and 63 points in 53 games along with a plus-26 and should be in the top-5 in everybody’s Hart ballot after the season he just produced.
Nobody could have guessed it was going to be the fastest overtime game-winner in Boston Bruins playoff history, beating Bobby Orr’s legendary leaping score to clinch the Stanley Cup way back in 1970.
But that’s the kind of clutch, warrior-like player that Marchand has become. He’s an emotional leader on the ice setting the tone for the Bruins each and every time they hop over the boards, and he backs it up with everything he does in all situations for the Black and Gold.
“It’s who he is. He competes at all times,” said Bergeron of his longtime linemate. “His will and his want to be the difference is there every time. It’s no surprise. You [in the media] have been around long enough and I’ve been around long enough to know that’s just who he is.”
“Who he is” is the very definition of an MVP candidate and it’s something new teammates like Taylor Hall have noticed early and often when it comes to Marchand.
“Confidence is such a special thing in sports,” Hall told reporters, per the Bruins. “When you have it, you don’t even really know you have it. When you don’t have confidence, it’s certainly apparent. I can’t really say what the turning point was or anything, but when I watch a guy like Marchand play and the things he does out there, I think that was a really great thing for me, to watch him play.
“To see how hard he is on pucks, to see how many times he gives a second effort to get a puck back or make a play on D or on offense. He’s been a guy our whole roster feeds off of. For me personally, to see how he plays, I know I can play a similar style. It’s almost like you watch someone do it, and then you’re like, ‘OK, I can do that.’ That was a little thing.”
Marchand not only improves himself each and every season with the Boston Bruins, but he finds ways on and off to make all of his teammates better like he’s doing in helping to lift Hall to a higher level. That’s what being a Hart Trophy candidate is all about and Marchand had it all going on during an epic Game 2 performance for the Black and Gold.