Brad Marchand doesn’t ease into things. Not games, not hits, not confrontations.
So there was no easing back onto the ice when he made his return Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks after serving a three-game suspension for slew footing.
He had been waiting eagerly and was beyond ready to throw himself into the mix, and acting coach Joe Sacco was willing to oblige.
Marchand played a season-high 23:19 in the 2-1 shootout loss over 26 shifts (also a season high). He put four shots on net, delivered one hit, and picked up one penalty.
“I think he’s one of those guys that never really misses a beat when he comes back,” linemate Patrice Bergeron said. “He works extremely hard — probably the hardest worker on this team on and off the ice — and it pays off.
“[He] came in and played a lot of minutes for us, and that’s who he is, that’s what he does, and that’s it. It’s going to keep getting better.”
The overtime tacked on another 1:28 of ice time to Marchand’s workload, but Sacco acknowledged that even with the extra five-minute period, Marchand was on the ice more than the team anticipated in his first game back.
“He played a lot, probably played too much,” Sacco said. “I felt like we might have had him out there a little too much tonight. But we got the three power plays in the third and the overtime. But I think that his game is fine. He always works hard. He’s generating. I’m fine with Marsh’s game and I thought he was good.”
Marchand opened the scoring for the Bruins in Thursday night’s 3-2 win over the Oilers with a shorthanded goal in the first period.
The Bruins leaned on goalie Jeremy Swayman in a way they hadn’t since last April, starting him for the third straight game against the Canucks.
Over that span, he delivered, stopping 95 of 99 shots. Over three starts prior to that, Swayman had allowed nine goals. When he stepped in last season for Tuukka Rask, Swayman only gave up more than two goals in one of his 10 regular-season starts.
While Swayman appears as locked in now as he was a year ago, he didn’t want to go back and compare.
“I think the main thing we’re just staying in the moment, not worried about last year, not worried about this year,” he said. “Just making sure I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win in the current game. Obviously, there is a big difference I think from the start to now, and I’m happy with it and I’m going to continue that.”
Linus Ullmark got the start in net against the Oilers and made 41 saves to get the win.
Skaking it up
The Bruins’ search for consistent scoring continued in Vancouver as Sacco tinkered with the lines looking for some punch.
He replaced Taylor Hall with Erik Haula on the second line with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith, but Sacco said it wasn’t an issue with Hall specifically.
While Marchand was out, Hall played with Bergeron and David Pastrnak on the top line, while Haula moved to the second line with Coyle and Smith.
The Haula-Coyle-Smith combination gave the Bruins a lift in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday with Haula and Smith assisting on a goal by Coyle. Haula also had an assist on a goal by Brandon Carlo (who sat out against the Oilers because of a lower-body injury, replaced by John Moore) in the 2-0 win over Nashville on Dec. 2.
‘It wasn’t necessarily just [Hall],” Sacco said. “It was the line in general. We thought that as a group that maybe we could just change it up a little bit and put Haula [in], because that line did have some success the last couple of games.”
Sacco said he would think about keeping Haula on the second line going forward.
“We just thought we’d give it a chance to give it a shot in the arm and try to jolt our offense a little bit,” Sacco said.
Life in a fishbowl
Bergeron did his best to persuade the Bruins’ medical staff to let him play without the cumbersome fishbowl attached to his helmet, but it didn’t work.
Against the Canucks, he played 19:39 with the fishbowl as a precaution after having his broken nose reset on Monday, and he didn’t like one second of it.
“Hated it, to be honest with you,” he said. “First time doing that, I think, in my career, so definitely an adjustment. I’m not going to lie. Peripheral vision or if the puck is close by your feet, it’s tough to track. So it’s an adjustment. I’ve got to, I guess, get used to it.”
Bergeron will have to wear it for at least another two weeks.
“I have no choice,” he said. “I tried to get my way out of it, but we’ll see. I’ll ask again.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.