Connect with us

Boston Bruins

Colageo: Marchand-era Boston Bruins Look to Advance



Boston Bruins

Playoff clinchers have rarely come easily for the Boston Bruins of the Brad Marchand era.

Yes, it’s time to call it that, for this is his team now, and the last remaining member of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup squad has announced himself in this opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with consecutive game-winning goals on the road, sandwiching them like chocolate pucks around the not-so-sweet center of Sheldon Keefe’s complaints.

In between Games 3 and 4, the Leafs coach attempted to cajole the NHL into redefining his strategic blunder by subtly petitioning the league to declare twin agitators Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi victims of official favoritism toward Marchand.

Good luck with that one, Coach.

Remember, the NHL’s first commissioner once named Dale Hunter to the NHL All-Star Game per his own choice. If age and miles can turn the likes of Dale Hunter into an esteemed legend of the sport worthy of such a late-career honor, don’t hold your breath for the league to decide that Bertuzzi’s and Domi’s antics are somehow Marchand’s fault.

From the other side of the coin, as surely as Ryan Reaves was thrilled to see Matt Rempe enter the league and thereby breathe life into his own waning career, it’s been inspiring for Bostonians to witness Marchand’s postseason surge.

His play down the regular-season stretch was widely referenced for its lack of scoring production, but of greater concern in this space was his often-flatfooted posture at the predictable result of ill-advised, individual, pond-hockey efforts that, while traditionally a part of Marchand’s early-season ritual, had become a springtime occurrence.

Historically, those gaffs would eventually reveal themselves as data that Marchand collects over the course of the season so, when it actually matters, he would torch those same opponents.

He is starting to do that now.

Meanwhile, Bertuzzi’s attempts to cancel himself and Marchand out of the series together have only proven 50% successful in that he has been a distracted player and Marchand has found his inner Red Bull.

The Leafs would have been smarter to take their chances at letting a sleeping dog lay, but refocusing Bertuzzi away from the hockey that needed months to meld with Toronto’s talent and exclusively onto Marchand not only subtracts a long-awaited replacement for Zach Hyman’s grit but has awoken a beast whom – I freely admit – I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again.

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney will take that transaction eight days a week, and it’s only fitting that Marchand in this series has become the franchise’s career playoff goals leader, his 56 postseason tallies eclipsing Cam Neely, who scored only the first two of his career 57 playoff goals for the Vancouver Canucks.

As for the series itself, Game 5 is historically unkind when the Bruins are in a position to advance.

My own negative vibes stem from the 1972 Stanley Cup final when I slept out for tickets as a teenager – Ticketron was on the second floor of Sears at the Dedham Mall – and, having succeeded, was very high above rink side on a school night to see the Cup for the first time with the naked eye.

The Bruins led, but in the third period Rangers mercenary Bobby Rousseau banked a puck off a Boston defenseman and in behind the otherwise-stellar Ed Johnston to complete a comeback and send the series back to Madison Square Garden, where Bobby Orr would spin away from Bruce MacGregor for one goal and add a second, with Wayne Cashman sealing the deal for Gerry Cheevers’ shutout.

The next morning, Orr went under the knife. His left knee would never again function for backward skating. The World Hockey Association and more NHL expansion came that summer, and the Big, Bad Bruins in a matter of weeks had become a shell of the ’72 team inscribed on the barrel of the Cup.

So I have my own Game 5 potential-clincher baggage, I know that.

The Marchand era is not so bad in this regard.

Going back to the 2010-11 season, there were five occasions when the Boston Bruins were up 3-1 with a chance to advance. Twice, the Bruins have clinched the series with a Game 5 victory. On two of the other three occasions, they still won the series. Only last year’s series against the Florida Panthers did the Bruins have a cat by the tail and lose their grip.

Perhaps Game 5 takes up a squatter’s residency in our memory banks because last year is still so raw, being the final season for Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and some high-quality rentals. The other lingering reason being that two Game 5 failures when up 3-1 in the series took place against Toronto.

Going forward, as Marchand always reminds us, nothing that happened before matters when the puck drops on Tuesday night.

A quick aside on the goaltending: I freely admit I would have started Linus Ullmark in Game 1 because he had been the better goaltender since the trade deadline. But once Jeremy Swayman was the difference in Game 1, I would have come back with him. That’s not to say I think the Bruins blundered in going to Ullmark for Game 2. Without him, that’s probably a five or six-goal-against night.

In any case, going to Swayman for Game 4 made perfect sense. The rotation was never sacred, as Coach Jim Montgomery said all along that, should one of their goalies got hot, they would probably ride it out. He did, they are. That’s not a change of plan.

By the way, if they get where they would really like to go, it’s a long, uncharted road to June, so don’t be so sure that Ullmark has played his last game for the Boston Bruins.

Given the Leafs are now officially playing for their season, perhaps Keefe’s plea will resonate with the officials as Game 5 visits the gray areas.

Historically speaking, the scoreboard has as much or more to say about enforcement standards than any complaint the officials receive. Thousands of hockey games cannot be wrong. The refs have a tendency to call it even more than fair, and right now Toronto’s in a deep hole. Everyone has seen their superstars arguing on the bench, even as Bertuzzi sat between them staring into space.

Whatever the referees decide is their game-management posture, that’s the threshold for penalty calls.

The Maple Leafs are a skill team trying to play a gritty game. Now if the Boston Bruins can reduce a naturally physical team to such discombobulation, then we can begin to earnestly consider the possibility that the Bruins are, in fact, the monkey-wrench team of the playoffs.

This is one series, and, as Game 5s of days gone by have told us, it’s not over. Keefe met the media earlier today and focused his comments on his own team, even calling the players’ argument on the bench “progress.”

While William Nylander’s return to the lineup only added another facet to Toronto’s frustration, Mikhail Sergachev’s return to Tampa Bay’s lineup was triumphant.

An integral piece of the Lightning’s big-three defense (with Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak), Sergachev was eased back in as a fifth wheel, skating 17 minutes with an assist in the Bolts’ 6-3 victory that sends the series back to Sunrise for Game 5 Monday night with Florida looking for the close-out win.

It’s probably a case of too little, too late for Sergachev and Tampa Bay. And one wonders what lies ahead for a team that must take serious stock in its personnel as a win-now team no longer winning in the now.

Copyright ©2023 National Hockey Now and Boston Hockey Now. Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the NHL.