Back on Nov. 7, when Brad Marchand was deep in a slump, he finally connected for a goal, his first in 12 games. He mimed pulling the monkey off his back, and went on to finish with 25 goals, the second most of his career.
He solved his regular-season scoring issue. What he hasn’t done is solve his postseason scoring issue.
Marchand scored two goals on June 3, 2013, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh, but he hasn’t scored since in the playoffs. Over those 20 games, Marchand tallied just seven assists. He wasn’t able to score in this year’s playoffs against the Red Wings or Canadiens, and it wasn’t for lack of chances. He missed a couple of open nets in the first-round series against Detroit, and had other opportunities against Montreal.
“It’s very tough,” Marchand said of his play. “I think the opportunities were there. Every game I had opportunities, but sometimes they go in, sometimes they didn’t. Maybe it was a lack of focus or I didn’t bear down enough, but I didn’t come up big when the team needed me and [it’s] very frustrating.”
The left wing had one of the best chances in Game 7 against the Canadiens, when he could have tied the score in the first period.
“Speaking for myself, I didn’t play the way I know I can and didn’t capitalize,” Marchand said. “Even [Wednesday] night early on I had a chance there to tie it up, 1-1, and it would have been a completely different game. So in playoffs, though, you need everyone to win and it’s tough.”
With 1:19 left in the period, Patrice Bergeron took out Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin by the left side of the crease, and the puck was there for Marchand. He could have made up for those missed opportunities with a goal, could have turned around the Bruins’ lackluster start.
But Marchand shot the puck over the net, and the Bruins went on to lose the game and the series.
“Sometimes you just get comfortable or complacent and you think when you’re in a situation where you have an open net or whatnot, you expect it to go in,” said Marchand. “You can take a little off, expecting that to happen, and you don’t bear down.
“I think sometimes maybe focusing too much on other stuff and being chippy and not just playing the game. It just didn’t come together.”
It wasn’t just the lack of goals. Marchand had a number of bad turnovers in the series, and spent too much time in the penalty box. He received 18 penalty minutes in the postseason, including four in Game 7 against Montreal on a goalie interference call in the first period and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for snowing Carey Price in the second, both of which were questionable.
But whether the unsportsmanlike should have been called, it wasn’t a smart move by Marchand to put himself in position for it to be called, something team president Cam Neely said on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday. It was the wrong kind of agitation for a player who has built his career on being pesky, but wasn’t really against the Canadiens.
While Marchand said it was frustrating to get that penalty, he acknowledged that because of his play, he will get reputation calls. “I dug that hole for myself and I’ve got to live with it,” he said. “It is frustrating at times, but I can’t really do anything about it.”
Marchand did help the Bruins to their Game 2 comeback win against Montreal. He had the primary assists on Dougie Hamilton’s goal that cut the Canadiens’ lead to one, and Bergeron’s goal that tied the score.
But Marchand didn’t play well often enough. He was one — not the only one — of the players from whom the Bruins needed more against the Canadiens and, with a salary of $4.5 million per year and a spot on the second line, that’s not acceptable.
“We didn’t play our best hockey at the right time and that’s what you need to do in playoffs,” he said. “You need to play your best hockey of the season in playoff time and we didn’t do that.”