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Colageo: Marchand Steadfastly Bullish on Boston Bruins



Boston Bruins

After every egg laid this season by the Boston Bruins, captain Brad Marchand has been steadfast in contextualizing the state of his hockey team within the entire scope of the season it has enjoyed and the position in the standings that it has earned.

Never once has he engaged a sky-is-falling narrative, not even following the All-Star break when the Bruins won four out of 13.

“We know what we have as a group. We’ve known that from day one. Regardless of how analytics look at our group, we believe in what we have, and we believe in what the team will build structure-wise,” said Marchand after Saturday’s nationally televised, 5-1 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.

Now that the Boston Bruins have taken at least a point from nine of their last 10 games (5-1-4) and only the Florida Panthers have more points (92 to Boston’s and Vancouver’s 91), and now that Friday’s NHL Trade Deadline has passed, making this the Bruins team that coach Jim Montgomery will look to sharpen up for 16 more regular-season games, the noise has quieted.

Now what Marchand has been saying all season, win or lose, can be properly heard.

“That’s the coach’s job every year, to look at our group and put a gameplan in place that allows us to have success every night. And they’ve done that. And when we execute the proper way, we have a great team. When we get away from it and we think we’re a high-end, skilled team, you know, we shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “That’s not what our group is, not how we won at all this year. We win by committee, we win by structure, we win by playing great defense. That’s how we’ve always done it. When we transition well and we play with pucks down below their goal line, that’s how we win. We wear teams down and we win tight games.

“Now, you’re not going to be perfect every night because teams are so good (in the NHL) – we have thrown some games away – but that’s also adversity that we get to learn from and opportunity to get better. We look at that as a positive. So yeah, we’ve believed in our group from day one – we still do.”

Full disclosure: The opinion in this space has been that the Boston Bruins needed to do more at the trade deadline to contend for the Stanley Cup, if only because they are asking the same defense core to deny inside ice and, despite many personnel changes up front, have yet to prove they can take inside ice against four playoff opponents. That is the legacy of recent early ousters that must be rewritten.

The fact Marchand spoke the same way when the Boston Bruins started 14-1-3 as he has through every pothole they’ve hit over the 49 games since is a testament to his eyes on the prize. He enjoys regular-season success but has never defined a season by it.

“And we’ve always preached, like, it’s not about how you do in the regular season, it’s about how you do the playoffs. You just have to get there, anything can happen,” he said. “(There’s) so many different variables even when you get to that point that allows teams to have success or not, and there’s a lot of them that are out of your control. So, we worry about what we can, and that’s about playing the right way. When we get there, we’ll see what happens.”

That said, as longtime Boston Herald reporter Steve Conroy reminded me, belief is an essential component to any playoff run.

The Boston Bruins believe, and maybe, just maybe, the train conductor played so brilliantly by Tom Hanks in The Polar Express will punch them a ticket accordingly.

In the wake of reports about a potential trade of Linus Ullmark to Los Angeles, WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin gets the gold star for asking Ullmark if he wished to comment on reports he had utilized the 16-team, no-trade clause in his contract. Ullmark, to his credit, did not disrespect the question but, in his whirlwind of emotion, merely stated how happy he is to be a member of the Boston Bruins and to play in this city.

Ullmark was angling toward a shutout on Saturday until Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang made a beautiful shot 2:51 into the third period.

Early in the game, Penguins winger Michael Bunting, a proven playoff nuisance ironically ditched at the deadline by Carolina (and traded out of the playoffs) in the Jake Guentzel deal, lined up Marchand as the left winger was coming out of the defensive zone, trying all at once to untangle his arms from Pittsburgh sticks, see the puck near his skates and keeping his head up.

Marchand made him miss. In fact, Bunting missed so cleanly one wondered if the former Maple Leaf was turning over a new one.

“No, he didn’t. He was standing still, and I had speed. He thought I was going to cut inside,” Marchand told Boston Hockey Now.

Imagine the devastation had Bunting succeeded with this garbage-game hit. Imagine, had he taken out Marchand, the reinvented Boston Bruins trying to ready themselves post-deadline for a playoff run without their leader.
Actually, we don’t have to imagine.

It was Bunting’s left shoulder that knocked Erik Cernak out of last year’s Toronto-Tampa series, compromising a Lightning team depending on Cernak to replace Ryan McDonagh as a Big 3 defenseman alongside Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev. As a result, the Maple Leafs won a series for the first time in 20 years.

Pittsburgh has nothing to play for (and it showed), but these are the games you worry about.

All it takes is one lapse in concentration. Fortunately for the Bruins, Bunting chose poorly. If Marchand ever loses concentration, it’s when no one else is on the ice, like during a shootout in Philadelphia.

The collision was apparently accidental, but don’t forget how the eventual Presidents Trophy-winning Boston Bruins were derailed 10 seasons ago when defenseman Dennis Seidenberg went down late in a routine win against a non-playoff team (Ottawa) with season-ending, ACL/MCL tears. Seidenberg was never adequately replaced, and the Bruins’ suddenly too-young defense could not contain Montreal in the second round.

The deadline was obviously different for this Boston Bruins team than other recent editions, but there was also a consistency in that Sweeney went out of his way not to disturb the dressing room. He didn’t have the draft picks to add a top-nine forward or a top-four defenseman, but by not parting with NHL players he affirmed the belief in the room.

“There’s a lot that goes into making deals, right? Between the cap and the assets we have and what the ask is from other teams, there’s a lot of moving parts. But the great thing about Don and the organization is that they want to give the team the opportunity to win every year,” said Marchand. “You know, if they feel we have a chance, they want to improve the group the best way they can.

“It’s incredible to have that confidence from your management. They will reward you if you do your job on the ice. They did the best they could, and they do every deadline. They brought in two great guys (Pat Maroon and Andrew Peeke) that are going to fit great in our group and our locker room on our team, and play the way we expect every night. We’re excited to have them.”

The deadline pickup by that flew way under the radar: On Thursday, Nashville GM Barry Trotz sent a fifth-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for left winger Anthony Beauvillier, whom he had coached with the N.Y. Islanders.
Beauvillier, included in the Jan. 30, 2023, Bo Horvat blockbuster, faded in Vancouver and, on Nov. 8, 2023, went to Chicago for a fifth-round pick that the Blackhawks get back now, albeit in the middle of the round rather than at the start.

If the Predators get the Beauvillier who helped the Islanders eliminate the Boston Bruins and reached the 2021 Eastern Conference Final, then this is the deal that will make the defense-first Preds a conversation piece next month and perhaps in May.

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