In the first period of Monday afternoon’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins, forward Brad Marchand created a surprise opportunity on the penalty kill for the Bruins when he carried the puck into the offensive zone for what normally turns out to be a nothing chance on net while shorthanded. But instead of trying to run some time off on the kill or getting a mediocre shot on net out of the possession, Marchand turned on the jets. He barreled towards Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who dropped his stick, and Marchand eased past him for a breakaway bid on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Marchand’s initial bid was turned aside by Quick, but the rebound squirted out to a waiting Marchand, who scooped up the puck and beat four Kings skaters and Quick to put the Bruins up, 1-0, by potting his fourth shorthanded goal of the season.
Bruins fans have come to expect highlight reel goals like Monday’s tally from Marchand, but this year, those are the types of plays Marchand seemed wholly incapable of converting on.
“Early on [in the season], I tried to beat guys like that all the time and it just didn’t work,” Marchand said. “[Monday] was one of those times where it did and went my way.”
In the last few games, it seems everything is suddenly going Marchand’s way. The same player who took 32 games to score his first five goals of the season now has six goals in his last four games. Monday afternoon’s game marked the second consecutive two-goal game for the previously frustrated forward, and his recent offensive surge has him suddenly leading the Bruins in goals (16).
“I think that he is really moving his feet and he’s using his speed to his advantage and he’s creating a lot of plays just by his hockey instincts,” said linemate Patrice Bergeron. “He’s taking what’s in front of him, he’s not forcing plays and he’s got it on a string right now. He’s making some unbelievable moves.”
While his first goal of Monday’s game came off what Bergeron might call an unbelievable move, Marchand’s second goal of the game was momentum-changer. The tally came off a one-timer 18 seconds after the Kings had tied the game at 2-2 in the third period, and it stood as the game-winner in the 3-2 Boston victory.
“I think right now he’s feeling good about his game and comes and plays with a lot of energy,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “He’s got great speed now, where I thought before he was playing at a slower pace. The confidence that his game is showing just by that shorthanded goal he scored—patience with the puck, no panic, and again, control of his emotions. He’s not letting anything throw him off his game right now.”
The Kings supplied some of the NHL’s best in the attempt to thwart Marchand. On his shorthanded goal, he not only beat a Conn Smythe trophy winner in Quick, he made Doughty and forward Anze Kopitar – two of the Kings’ best players – look inept.
Marchand’s game Monday was even more impressive considering he had a two-goal game just 24 hours before in Chicago. A flight home and a very brief layover could not cool down the suddenly red-hot forward.
But while Marchand’s current four-game goal-scoring streak seems to be a sign that his earlier season struggles have officially been put to rest, he said he is not taking any current success for granted.
“It’s nice, but you know it’s going to end at some point,” Marchand said. “You are just trying to stay even keel; you don’t want to get too high ever and you don’t want to get too low. So the main thing right now is to try and continue to work hard and hopefully it will stay the same way.”