Brad Marchand didn’t leave the White House last week without the leader of the free world asking him about his nickname.
“Little Ball of Hate,’’ said President Obama. “What’s up with that nickname?’’
Back on Causeway Street yesterday for the first time since that visit to Pennsylvania Avenue, Marchand said the shout-out caught him off-guard.
“You don’t expect the president is going to talk about you at all,’’ said a bemused Marchand, back on left wing last night with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. “The guys gave it to me a little bit after that. But that’s OK.’’
Marchand typically answers to “Marsh’’ or “Marshy,’’ but said yesterday that he went by “Squirrel’’ for some of his days with the AHL Providence Bruins.
“Yeah, we were in Hershey for the playoffs,’’ he said. “And just before the anthem was played, the place was quiet and someone yelled, ‘Hey, Marchand, you’re a squirrel.’ So that kind of stuck for a while.’’
Marchand knocked home his 18th goal of the season early in the third period last night, potting the 3-3 equalizer after Joe Corvo launched a slapper from above the right circle. Marchand scurried for the loose puck and tapped it in, with Senators defenseman Chris Phillips on his back.
“I knew I was going to shoot it before I got it, but there was only one guy between me and [Marchand],’’ said Corvo. “We haven’t been scoring on the power play lately, but we’ve been taking more shots. Both Seids [Dennis Seidenberg] and I have good shots, so we might as well take them.’’
Perhaps that goal will rekindle his Little Ball of Hate ways. Since being suspended five games for his perilous upending of Vancouver’s Sami Salo Jan. 7, the 23-year-old Marchand has not been playing with his trademark intensity and around-the-net presence.
“My hands were a little choppy the first couple of games,’’ he said. “But in Washington [Jan. 24], I felt more in synch with Segs and Bergy.’’
He picked up a goal against the Capitals and had an assist against the Flyers Jan. 22.
The question will be whether he can be as aggressive as he was before the knockdown on Salo, which was officially deemed a clipping penalty. He is best when he plays at the edge, and getting his game to that level again could land him in front of league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
“Things happen too fast out there to be thinking about it,’’ he said. “In a situation like that, I guess I can’t duck under guys. But then again, if I’m in a vulnerable position, well, [Shanahan] told me to my face that I can do it to protect myself. So, I’d do it again if I’m vulnerable.’’
Boston captain Zdeno Chara said All-Star weekend in Ottawa was something he will cherish and that even he was a little surprised that he fired a 108.8 mile-per-hour shot to win the skills competition’s hardest shot contest.
“I didn’t see it get posted until after everyone else saw it,’’ said the Trencin Tower of Power. “And when I saw it up there, I said, ‘That’s a hell of a number.’ So yeah, I was pleased.’’
Meanwhile, Big Z, who rarely grows animated during his discussions with the media, was clearly frustrated with how equipment manufacturers are so quick to change stick specifications. Based on what he said, every time he gets comfortable with a stick, it seems the manufacturer changes the design - literally taking the tool out of his hands.
“The pressure on the company making the sticks is unbelievable,’’ he said. “You have a stick, you like it, and you tell them, ‘That’s what I want.’ And then it changes.
“So then you ask, ‘Why’d you stop making that?’ And then they say, ‘Well, we have to!’
“It just doesn’t make sense. They’re doing it because of some new graphic, or design, or blade . . . it’s crazy.’’
The Bruins got a much-needed kick-start to their power play last night, scoring twice on four attempts (Marchand and Chara). Going into the night, they had gone a mere 5 for 34 (14.7 percent) over their previous 10 games. They were blanked in five of those games. Chara’s goal was the first power-play strike by a Boston defenseman since he dialed one in from long range in the 6-0 victory over the Flyers Dec. 17 . . . Given the heavy work schedule over the final 35 games of the season, coach Claude Julien figures his two goalies, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, each will receive an ample amount of playing time. It’s possible they’ll split the work evenly. “But their play will influence our decision as to how much one plays versus the other,’’ said Julien. “We’ve got to keep it going with the hot hand. And when I say the hot hand, if they’re both hot, they’re both playing.’’
Horton sits out
Nathan Horton, bothered by concussion symptoms, remained out of the lineup, bumping Rich Peverely up to his right wing spot with David Krejci and Milan Lucic . . . Ugly line entering the night: The five defensive mainstays on the Boston roster - Chara, Corvo, Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, and Johnny Boychuk - were a combined 1-10-11 in a cumulative 65 games. McQuaid was the guy with the goal, scored against the Rangers Jan. 21. When it was over, Chara and Seidenberg each had goals and the defensive corps sported a line of 2-4-6. “Good time to get a contribution from the back end,’’ said Chara. “It’s huge. When teams are collapsing all the time around the net, it’s good for us to go D-to-D with our passes up top, and then the forwards kind of get caught in between. We should do that more.’’. . . Bergeron had a rare off night at the faceoff dot, losing 15 of his 24 draws. Jason Spezza was top for Ottawa, winning 10 of 17 . . . Birthday boy Tyler Seguin (20 years old) led the Bruins with six shots on net, but the league’s plus-minus leader finished minus-2.