Though the Boston Bruins sit at a solid 7-3 record, and can also brag as they’re the only team that’s beaten the San Jose Sharks in regulation, there are still a few kinks to work out. The team still has a tendency to play down to competition here and there, like when they just barely squeaked by the Florida Panthers. Or the inexplicable four power play goals they gave to the New Jersey Devils Saturday night en route to a 4-3 loss.
One of the bigger issues, though, is the struggles of winger Brad Marchand.
Since scoring his first goal in the second game of the season against the Detroit Red Wings, the feisty forward has drastically cooled. He hasn’t scored since, and was eventually demoted to the third line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. He’s since been called back up to his normal spot on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith due to Loui Eriksson‘s concussion last week, but it hasn’t changed anything. His play has been sloppy at times, and he’s committed his fair share of turnovers.
More concerning is the fact that Marchand hasn’t really been physically or emotionally engaged as much as he usually is. Though he’s not known to throw his body around like Milan Lucic, he does like to get in the faces of his opponents with some goon-ish antics from time to time. Often it causes opposing players to become distracted, which is when Marchand takes advantage by utilizing his offensive skills. However, he’s been relatively quiet this year.
If you ask head coach Claude Julien, fixing Marchand’s issues are all about improving his skating, as well as boosting his overall work ethic.
“Yeah, skating,” Julien said Monday. “We talked about that, and we had a real good practice today. He seemed to have a little bit more jump. I think when Brad skates the way Brad can skate, he’s quick. He’s a real fast skater and stuff like that. If he can start using his speed and put a real good work ethic along with that, like a compete level that we know he can, just those two things alone will make a huge difference for him. Today I think he responded well to that.
“I thought he had a real good practice. He was skating better than I’ve seen him skate in a while, so hopefully he continues to work on that part of it and he’s going to be fine.”
Marchand certainly isn’t immune to slumps, so its tough to believe he’ll be stuck in this one for an alarmingly extended period of time. That said, one can’t help but wonder how much of it is affected by the offseason trade of former line mate Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. His friendship with the former Bruin was well-documented, as the two took the city of Boston by storm after the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2011. His departure may be having a bit of a lingering effect on Marchand’s play.
The Bruins are still playing well, proving they can survive through Marchand’s slump for the time being. That said, he needs to get his game going. If he does, it makes Boston even scarier.