One of the most important aspects of team makeup for a hockey club, like the Boston Bruins, is that your best players are also your toughest players.
Not in terms of throwing out massive board-rattling hits like this Pierre-Luc Dubois job on Charlie Coyle that literally broke the glass at TD Garden over the weekend as two big bodies smashed into it.
Pierre-Luc Dubois hits Charlie Coyle into the boards and out comes the glass: pic.twitter.com/zgyOxbNGux
— Blake Thorne (@_BlakeThorne) January 22, 2022
And not when it comes to fighting or dropping the gloves either.
No, we’re talking about hockey toughness when it comes to taking hits to make plays, paying the price by going to the dirty areas for offense and playing through pain when the situation calls for it during the regular season or playoffs. And it’s most important that a hockey team’s best players are that kind of “tough” when setting the tone on the ice.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are exactly those kinds of hockey players for the Boston Bruins, and No. 63 showed that again over the weekend. It looked like Marchand was going to be out for weeks after injuring his right shoulder last Thursday night when Garnet Hathaway drove him head-first into the corner boards in a cheap, dangerous play.
Garnet Hathaway with a cheap hit on Brad Marchand: pic.twitter.com/zNWmeRlFnG
— Blake Thorne (@_BlakeThorne) January 21, 2022
Marchand was initially ruled out for Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Winnipeg Jets, but instead gritted through the pain while finishing with an assist on the game-winning goal in 19:36 of vintage ice time to lead all Bruins forwards, of course.
It isn’t surprising given Marchand’s career track record of returning quickly from injury, and it’s an absolutely testament to how much No. 63 simply lives to compete.
“If you feel you can play, you got to battle through it,” said Marchand. “You almost feel like you’re letting the guys down if you sit out and, you know, it’s tough. It’s a tough decision. The last thing you want to do is put the team at a disadvantage if I did get in and had to come out at some point in the game. So, you know, just more thankful that nothing bad happened tonight and we had a big win so it’s great to be a part of it. I mean, it’s a treat to be a part of this league and play every night and like I said, you don’t want to ever miss a game.”
It’s exactly those kinds of performances that set the tone for expectations as to what everybody can play through, just as veteran players did with Marchand back when he was a younger player on some excellent hockey teams.
It was just a couple of weeks ago when Marchand recounted a story of blocking an Alex Ovechkin shot and then howling in pain on the bench because he thought for sure that his foot was broken. Long story short: it wasn’t.
“I don’t think I missed a shift,” said Marchand, with a smile on his face. “The guys definitely gave it to me for a while.”
Now Marchand is one of those veteran guys giving credit to his younger teammates about all that they’re playing through, all while he shrugged off the shoulder pain and toughed it out for a gritty two-point performance.
“I think there’s a respect amongst a group when a guy plays through something, you know, same thing with (Matt Grzelcyk), Chucky (Charlie McAvoy) went through it the last couple of weeks,” said Marchand. “You know, it’s not always known in the public and in the media, what guys play through but there’s a tremendous amount of respect I think that goes through the group when when guys are willing to put their bodies on the line and play through injury and pain for each other.
“Because that’s ultimately what it’s about is going to war and going to battle with each other every night. Again, I think it goes back to the way that you know, being brought up in this organization is you play for the group, you play for the room and it’s about sacrifice.”
Marchand served up a reminder last weekend about playing for the group and what being a hockey player is all about. And as usual, he and the Boston Bruins were rewarded by the hockey gods for his enduring efforts.