In a championship-driven city, fighting your way into the playoffs just isn’t enough-especially for this year’s Boston Bruins. After losing in the Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, and winning the presidents trophy yet failing to get past the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, the city needs more.
A series of moves- from Seguin to Boychuk to what some call a lackluster trade deadline- leave Bruins fans questioning management and wanting more. While some criticism seems agenda-based, most of it is accurate and warranted. There is no imminent direction, leaving everyone uneasy. Management whiffs, paired with unfortunately injuries, have left the Bruins an 8th seeded playoff team with an uncertain future.
One of the biggest downfalls of this Bruins club is its lack of finish. It’s killed them in a number of playoff series and set them back a ton this season. If the depth guys aren’t producing in the Claude Julien era, things are not going well. Their confidence is at an all time low, something that’s been sorely emphasized in the vaunted shootouts.
On Saturday, in their biggest game of the season, there were steps towards improvement.
“I mentioned that today to the guys, that we should be excited about this, not stressed not worried,” Claude Julien told the media in his pregame scrum. “These are great games to play in, and good players enjoy playing those kind of games. As an athlete if you’re a real competitive athlete, you want to have games that have meaning versus games they say ‘it doesn’t matter whether we win or lose we’ve got our spot,’ and those things sometimes can play against you. So I like the fact that there’s some meaning behind those games, and it not only excites the players but it excites the fans and everybody watching these games.”
Perhaps Claude lessened the grips on the sticks with his words. When Zdeno Chara’s point-shot found its way to the back of the net Bruins fans breathed a sigh of relief. Up one goal, early, against the Flyers, hopefully it was a sign of things to come.
One of the consistencies of this year’s team has been the play of Brad Marchand. Establishing himself as a 25-goal scorer in this league, Marchand’s two goals on Saturday could ignite the Boston hockey team. While finishing has been their biggest problem overall, it hasn’t been one for Marchand- who leads the team in goals and continues to be their best offensive player.
Once Greg Campbell (who rejoined the lineup in place of Brian Ferlin, angering Bruins worldwide) iced the puck with about five minutes to go, the story was looking all too familiar. A Flyers faceoff win and Nick Schultz goal from the point, the Bruins were down 2-1 late and fans were set to have yet another, far too common, fourth line tantrum.
But the heroics of Marchand, from the game-tying goal as an extra forward with just 15 seconds left in regulation to his unbelievable effort in overtime giving the Bruins the victory, saved everyone.
“He said at the end of the year and I think we’ve mentioned it that he didn’t feel like he had trained properly,” Julien said of Marchand when asked about his player postgame. “And he just felt like he was getting tired quickly, and then he trained a little differently this year and his stamina is a lot better than it was last year. It makes a big difference.”
Marchand’s two-goal effort could give the Bruins a needed edge over the Florida Panthers, Flyers and Ottawa Senators (all battling for the 8th seed) as things wrap up.
In a season where inconsistency and lack of finish are the glaring issues, Marchand should be viewed as a bright spot and role model for other Bruins players. If the locker room can follow his lead, play with more confidence, even in the slightest bit, the team could go on a run and secure their spot. Maybe yesterday was the start.