There’s a solid chance that the Boston Bruins could’ve been eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs even earlier if not for new captain Brad Marchand.
When Marchand’s Boston Bruins captain predecessor and longtime linemate Patrice Bergeron missed the first four games of the seven-game series loss to the Florida Panthers, Marchand put the team on his back as he had before in Bergeron’s absence. The now-35-year-old winger scored three goals, added an assist in those four games, and would finish the series with four goals and six assists.
“There’s no surprises there for me,” Bergeron said of his longtime wingman before returning for Game 5. “I’ve seen him evolve over the years and become the player he is, the person he is now, and the leader. Whether it’s leading by example or also speaking up when it’s the right time, I think he’s grown into that role, and I’m not surprised.
The Panthers did their best to goad the once ready-to-engage Brad Marchand into nonsense between the whistles and with plenty of late hits. However, the player who almost got suspended for licking an opponent in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and who previously cost his teammates games by crossing the line was the pillar of turning the other cheek in against the Panthers.
Bergeron noticed his then-alternate captain’s determination not to take the bait but wasn’t surprised.
“There’s bigger things at stake, and more important things for us as a team but also individually,” Bergeron said Marchand’s maturity and discipline. “We gotta put the egos aside. I think he understands that. He’s always been a great forward in the playoffs stepping up and being a leader on and off the ice. It’s the same thing right now.”
Marchand’s other linemate last season, Jake DeBrusk felt Marchand’s leadership presence and gladly followed.
“I think it was big with a couple of guys, but yeah, ‘Marchy’ led the way a lot,” DeBrusk said before Game 5. “Talking to him a lot throughout the games and even some things that were said pregames, he definitely did take that leadership role. It’s one of those things where we all knew, and he knows too the position he’s in, and that’s the makeup of him and this team.”
Fast-forward to Wednesday and right after the Boston Bruins announced Brad Marchand as the team’s 27th captain, head coach Jim Montgomery recalled having the same observations and feelings as Bergeron and DeBrusk last April.
“Well, we learned how it was kind of his room. I think people looked to him, and he assumed it,” Montgomery explained. “That’s what we learned there. But I would think over the course of the whole season last year, I learned that he’s more than capable. He’s going to be an excellent captain.
What I love is his competitive nature on the ice. When I got here, I didn’t realize that that was an everyday occurrence; whether he’s in a weight room or when he speaks, there’s emotion to the way he speaks. I think just the way he speaks and also the way he goes about practicing, and in games, he does drag people naturally into the fight. I also think he’s the kind of person that will initiate, not having an issue commanding the room vocally. I don’t think it’s going to be something that is forced. I think it’s going to be natural, and I don’t think it’s going to be overdone.”