One of the realities Brad Marchand took away from his six-game suspension was that he would have to find a way to be effective while being mindful that the NHL would be keeping a close eye on him.
It felt like a burden he knew he’d have to carry — not just for the rest of the season, but for the rest of his career.
In his first 10 games after returning from suspension, Marchand posted a 2-7—9 line and went plus-6, but he was admittedly still trying to get a feel for the throttle.
It wasn’t lost on Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy that while Marchand was trying to be on his best behavior in recent weeks, the Bruins star wasn’t getting whistles in his favor. A cross-check from Josh Morrissey last month against Winnipeg came to mind as an obvious call that didn’t go Marchand’s way.
“That’s the challenge in front of him,” Cassidy said. “He’s just going to have to play through it. I would hope that at some point he gets the ones he deserves like every other player would but that’s out of my hands. Hopefully, like I said he’s deserving of drawing a penalty that goes.”
With the Bruins in a 2-1 hole in the second period Saturday against a pesky Columbus Blue Jackets team, Marchand was battling for the puck in the corner with Columbus defender Andrew Peeke and Peeke took a few extra jabs at Marchand before it was over.
Marchand was frustrated, but didn’t retaliate, he didn’t let it boil over. Instead, he made a play later in the period to shift the tides.
At the 18:13 mark, he scrambled to keep the puck in the Bruins zone, then reaped the rewards when Patrice Bergeron hit him with a pass from the right dot. Marchand punched it past Elvis Merzlikins for his 31st goal of the season. The Bruins would go on to win, 5-2.
After the equalizer, Erik Haula’s tip-in with the clock winding down on a power-play late in the third period made it 3-2.
Marchand keeping cool helped the Bruins regain control.
“He just has to find a way to get to the bench and reset,” Cassidy said. “That’s just the way it is for him. I thought he did a great job with it tonight. He went out and was physical. He took whatever emotion he had coming to the bench, and he took it out in the right manner.”
Marchand is in the middle of his most productive stretch since the suspension. Over seven games coming into Saturday’s matchup against Columbus, Marchand scored seven goals with three assists and was plus-5.
To ice it, Marchand found Jake DeBrusk on a breakaway for an empty-net goal. Charlie Coyle added another empty netter with six seconds left.
The Bruins have won five out of six. They are 16-3-1 over their last 20 games.
Haula gave the Bruins his second multi-goal game of the season. Jeremy Swayman bounced back after giving up six goals against Toronto by stopping 21 of 23 shots.
Somehow, between the final minute of the first period and the first minute of the second, the Bruins went from being in relative control to playing from behind.
Haula’s 11th goal of the season gave them a 1-0 lead at the 15:09 mark. After Charlie McAvoy and Taylor Hall both took swats in front of the net, the puck wiggled out to Haula and he poked it past Merzlikins to give the Bruins an early lead.
The Blue Jackets only took five shots in the first. The Bruins took 15. But Columbus’s last shot of the period swung the momentum.
Gustav Nyquist evened the score with his 17th goal of the season. Columbus center Cole Sillinger deflected a shot from Adam Boqvist. Jeremy Swayman got his glove on it, but couldn’t snare it. Nyquist jumped on the rebound to tie the game at 1.
The Blue Jackets came out of the intermission and got another quickly, stunning the Bruins. Yegor Chinakhov fired a shot at Swayman from the side of the net. Swayman couldn’t control the rebound and Justin Danforth capitalized, sending the puck over his shoulder to make it 2-1.
The Blue Jackets were 0-3-2 over their last five, but Merzlikins was on a hot streak against Boston. In three games against the Bruins, Merzlikins came in 2-0-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage.
Since Marchand returned from his suspension, he’s tied with David Pastrnak with 22 points, taking on the challenge of toeing the line.
“It says he’s mindful of it,” Cassidy said. “It says he’s more valuable on the ice and has to keep his emotions in check. But like a lot of players that play on that edge a little bit, sometimes it doesn’t go that way. Hopefully, he gets the ones he deserves. Other than that, I don’t know what else to say about it. Just keep playing kid and keep pushing through.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.