Brad Marchand’s patented pull-up move sparks Bruins comeback in Game 2 win over Canadiens
|05.03.14 at 6:26 pm ET|
Every comeback has to start somewhere, and this one started with a move Brad Marchand has perfected. No, it wasn’t a shove after the whistle or a stick to someone’s legs behind the play.
It was that move where he pulls up on the rush before hitting a trailer, one that often leads to a quality scoring chance. With his team trailing 3-1 and just over nine minutes remaining Saturday, Marchand used the move to set up the goal that sparked the Bruins’ Game 2 comeback and helped them even up their second-round series against the Canadiens.
As Marchand entered the offensive zone, he had several options. He could have tried to beat Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin wide, but even though he had a full head of steam, Emelin was staying with him and appeared to be in position to ride him into the corner if he tried that. He could have tried to beat Emelin 1-on-1 with a move to the inside, but that’s a low-percentage play because most NHL defensemen are too good to get beat like that.
Marchand also could have stayed wide and just thrown the puck to the front of the net. That’s never really a bad option, especially when you have one linemate (Reilly Smith) driving hard to the net and another (Patrice Bergeron) following up the play. The potential for a redirect or a rebound makes that a pretty good scoring chance.
A lot of players would take that option, and no one would criticize them for it. But Marchand is able to recognize when he has an even better option than that. Time and time again, we’ve seen him throw on the brakes and hit the guy just crossing the blue line — whether it’s the center as the third man in or a defenseman as the fourth.
This time it was Dougie Hamilton. Marchand stopped on a dime and sent a beautiful backhand pass out to center point. Hamilton took the pass, took a few strides, and fired a quick snap shot from the high slot that beat Carey Price through a screen.
“The main thing is you’ve just got to drive wide with speed, and if you do that then you’re either going to get around their D or he’s going to cut you off,” Marchand said. “Once he cuts you off and you turn up, you’re going to have room. You know our D are really good at following up the play. Dougie has been playing great lately, so it was good to see him score.”
Pulling up on the rush and looking for the trailer isn’t a move that’s exclusive to Marchand. A lot of players do it, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that Marchand is as good as anyone at it. Zone entry stats are hard to come by, but according to the Shutdown Line blog, Marchand was the most efficient Bruin when it came to offensive zone entries as of mid-December. And according to Extra Skater, he led the Bruins in setup passes (passes that directly lead to a shot attempt) this season.
The combination of being good on entries, being fast and being a good passer makes the pull-up move incredibly effective for Marchand. He’s good at controlling the puck, he’s fast enough that defensemen always have to respect his ability to beat them wide, and he has the vision and passing skills to find the open teammate.
“He’s a pretty crafty player,” Smith said after the game. “He can beat you on the rush by going to the net or he can stop up. I’ve seen him do it numerous times this year and he always seems to make the right play, if it’s going to the net hard and taking on the defenseman, or pulling up and finding one of our defensemen. It’s a tough play for other teams to solve because they are focusing so much on his speed and trying to collapse in front, he is able to find that seam. It is definitely a game-changer that one play.”
And that’s exactly what it was Saturday. It swung the momentum of a game in which Marchand otherwise wasn’t all that good. He had the neutral-zone turnover that led to Montreal’s first goal, he was a little slow to get out to P.K. Subban on the third goal, and he didn’t have a single shot attempt all game.
But he had that move. And thanks to that move, the Bruins suddenly had life. Six minutes later they had the lead, and nine minutes later they had a Game 2 victory.