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Marchand ready to talk up his play

10.27.09 at 1:26 am ET
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Brad Marchand is trying to mix his talking and play on the ice

Brad Marchand is trying to mix his talking and play on the ice

WILMINGTON, Mass. — The gabby Brad Marchand finally got his “Welcome to the NHL” moment during Boston’s shootout loss to the Flyers last week.

The gritty B’s rookie has attempted to engage several opponents in some post-whistle “conversations”, but has found that both players and referees aren’t giving the youngster a very lengthy leash. That is until he bumped into another mouth that roared in the form of a hirsute Scott Hartnell skating for the Flyers. Philly’s greasy, grimy troublemaker took one look at the 5-foot-9 Marchand — and it’s more like a Dustin Pedroia 5-foot-9 than a legit height listing — and beat him to the war of barb-wired words.

Hartnell told Marchand to “Go back over the rainbow where he came from” in a surprisingly cultured “Wizard of Oz” reference. The Flyers bad guy was essentially calling the Bruins rookie a Lollipop kid from Munchkinville in the process of talking a bit of hockey smack. Marchand responded by calling the stringy-haired Hartnell “a poodle”, and things were officially off and running for the Black and Gold’s motor-mouthed youngster.

“That was a good one,” said Marchand of Hartnell’s barb. “I even laughed a little bit.”

It seems that little trash-talking exchange might just have been enough to let Marchand escape his cage after understandably holding back in his first few NHL games.

“It’s been a lot of fun. Things are a lot faster and the guys are a lot stronger, but things have been good,” said Marchand. “When I came up here it’s a lot different than the American League. There’s a lot less people [talking smack]. Up here there’s a lot more respect, and there’s less time that I’ve been doing it. The refs tell you to shut up and head for the bench.

“Now that I’m out there getting a little more confident and getting used to things, I’ll probably start [chirping] a lot more.”

B’s followers can expect that plenty of insult trades will be flowing from Marchand provided he continues working hard and building chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder — a combination that’s sparked production and loads of quality minutes since Marchand arrived on the scene three games ago. The Nova Scotia native brings boundless energy and a healthy amount of skill to the table, but still hasn’t brandished too much of that trademark edge just yet.

The work ethic has also allowed Marchand to slide right into a prime position on Boston’s revamped penalty kill unit alongside fellow newcomer Daniel Paille, and the results have been immediate. Boston hasn’t allowed a power play goal since Marchand arrived on the B’s scene, and the youngster has skaken up a comfortable, veteran roster full of players with a jolt of youthful energy and passion. Whether it’s because Marchand is a lucky charm or actual difference-maker, the Bruins are a perfect 8-for-8 in penalty kills since his arrival. The rookie has totalled slightly over 15 minutes per game in his three Bruins tilts, and logged a healthy three minutes of kill time in Saturday night’s comeback win against the Ottawa Senators.

“One of the things that [Paille and Marchand] have really brought is speed and we’re able to pressure the puck all the way up the ice,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “Paille was already a good penalty killer in Buffalo and we like him in that role. Just in that one day of practice Marchand was one of our best penalty killers in that power play/penalty kill [drill]. So we figured with that combination of speed and tenacity, he’d be a good addition to that. We’ve kind of minimized that [penalty kill] crew over the last few games.”

It’s probably not all that surprising that NHL referees aren’t familiar with Marchand’s chirpy ways on the ice or his uncanny ability to draw opponents into foolish penalties when the action intensifies. Julien has already reinforced within his young player that thriving with an edge and baiting opponents is something that originally earned Marchand his NHL promotion. It’s also part of the skill set that will keep the rookie in Boston.

 There may be times when things won’t work out for a young guy adept at provoking a little rink rage, but Julien and Co. are more than willing to balance some growing pains with Marchand’s in-your-face style.

“At some point somebody has to start somewhere, and there’s some young guys — like [Matt] Duchene in Colorado — who are playing pretty well right now,” said Julien. “He’s got a year of pro under his belt and he’s a player that doesn’t get intimidated much.

“He’s got to be careful and make sure it’s the other guy going into the box — and not him. But I think he’s also got a lot of experience at that during his career, so he should be okay. If it’s an issue then there’s no doubt we would address it, but you don’t want to take away a guy’s strength. He can antagonize and draw other players into taking penalties. That’s just the way he plays. We’re not going to hold him back and take away from the things that brought him here. He brings energy, he’s in-your-face, he gets under other player’s skin and he can score goals too.”

Marchand could also afford to step up his aggression in the offensive end after flashing solid instincts during his first NHL game while setting up a sweet Michael Ryder goal against the Predators. The winger indicated that his first job is to get pucks in the hands of Bergeron and Ryder to make plays, but young Marchand can’t forget he’s got enough to skills to pay the bills. After all, the little bulldog of a hockey scrapper was tearing up the AHL with six goals in six minor league games prior to his first call to the NHL Big Show.

“I’m just trying to get the puck to Bergie and Ryder and let them do something with it,” said  Marchand, who racked up 59 points as a 20-year-old with the P-Bruins last season. “I think it’s made it a lot easier for me skating with them. They’re two of the NHL’s best players and they’re always there supporting me and letting me know where they are. The biggest thing I do is get them the puck, and let them work it down low.

“I just forecheck hard and create turnovers so they can get opportunities. If I get the puck, then I’m trying to put it in the net.”

The Bruins’ 2006 third-round pick has already earned early respect from his veteran teammates for his tireless energy and unflagging work ethic. Perhaps that youthful exuberance was one of the few ingredients missing from the B’s dressing room. Mark Recchi, with 1,500 NHL games and plenty of teammates under his belt, is impressed with what he’s seen thus far out of Marchand, and buys into the notion of the rookie sparking his older teammates.

“He’s great. He’s a competitive kid and he got so much better as he went along in camp,” said Recchi. “He just works his bag off. That’s what you ask. Play with a little emotion and play with a little of that fire. That’s the kind of passion you want to see when the young kids come up.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Claude Julien, Mark Recchi,
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