BOSTON, MA - It's called a streak for a reason. It's a flash, a flame, and it keeps burning until it runs out.
Right now, Brad Marchand's flame is red-hot.
His hot hands helped the Bruins to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday afternoon at TD Garden with his second straight two-goal game. It was his sixth goal in his past four games, marking the longest goal-scoring stretch of his 266-game NHL career.
The speedy, crafty winger had twice scored goals in three consecutive games. But even for a streaky player like Marchand, he hadn't yet reached this level.
"I do, I get real lucky," he said, following the win over LA, when asked if he could give some credit to luck.
With just under eight minutes left in the first period, and the Bruins tasked with killing their first penalty of the game, Patrice Bergeron sprung Marchand with a pass up through center ice.
With speed, the winger caused Drew Doughty to reach in on the backpedal and end up losing his stick. Marchand couldn't get the shot off he wanted to, but that didn't matter.
As Doughty, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar all converged to careen the loose puck, Marchand waited until it popped out to the right circle. He held just long enough for Kopitar to go down on one knee to block his shot, before slipping the puck to his backhand, maneuvering around the King, and finding the hole through Jonathan Quick.
LA defenseman Jake Muzzin, who had started his breakout route, nearly came back around the goal in enough time to pokecheck the puck away from Marchand.
But all the five Kings could do was look into the back of the net.
"[He] went around me and it was a nice move that shouldn’t have happened," said Kopitar.
Kopitar's not alone; Marchand often leaves opponents with that same feeling.
It marked the winger's league-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season. He added another to his repertoire in the third period for his team-leading 16th goal, and what proved to be the game-winner.
"Yeah, I mean obviously I didn’t plan that very thing," said Marchand. "I was just trying to take it to the net and, luckily, it went in."
"I don’t think I would have gotten it through if [Doughty] didn’t drop his stick so kind of a catch-22 there [for him], it got through and then his stick got in the way again, but it was nice to get it back."
There's an old adage: "the harder you work, the luckier you get."
Teams are often heard saying that they make their own breaks. Those breaks have worked against the Bruins many times this season, but lately, they've been able to create more in their favor.
As a result, Boston has picked up five of six points in their past three games against Dallas, Chicago and LA, and Marchand's streak has coincided with the team's better all-around play. He's creating chances for himself and his linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith.
"That’s what confidence does to you," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "He’s been playing well. He’s feeling good about his game. When you feel good about yourself you have more energy, right? That’s whether it’s in normal life, or as an athlete."
"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."
Marchand's game is even exciting his teammates.
"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 Bergeron, who has assisted on all but one of Marchand's six goals during his four-game streak.
"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 and it makes us better players on the ice right now and as a line."
Torey Krug had given the Bruins a 2-0 lead, before LA stormed back to tied up, 2-2. Just 18 seconds later, Marchand and his line responded.
In-arena, the Kings' goal was still being announced. Marchand, Bergeron and Smith established their forecheck after the faceoff. While Bergeron battled behind the goal, Marchand gained separation on Jarret Stoll, just enough that he could fire in a one-timer from the inside of the right circle, off a perfect pass from Smith.
"Bergy and Smitty are making great plays and I’m on the receiving end of a lot of those," said Marchand, of the "phenomenal passers and playmakers" alongside him.
But Marchand has to add the finish.
"I think when bounces are going your way, you get more confidence and that’s all that it is," he said, of the opportunities he's created recently. "Early on, I didn’t really feel confident in anything that I was doing, and right now, it seems to be there. So hopefully it will continue."
Marchand struggled offensively to start the 2013-14 campaign. He couldn't really figure out why. He was putting pressure on himself. He was fighting it. He went through a 13-game scoreless stretch, the longest of his career, before "throwing the monkey off his back" on November 7 in a 4-1 win over Florida.
Still, he hadn't fully found his game. And as the first half of the season wore on, he slowly gained his edge back.
"I think I knew during that stretch that eventually, it was going to come around," said Marchand. "I mean, bounces had to start going our way and it’s nice that pucks are going in."
"That's what happens with players, you know?" Julien said after Marchand's two-goal game in Chicago. "You have guys who have a great start, then taper off, and guys who have a slow start and then pick it up."
"He's been good now for the last little while, so, nice to have him back."
It's also nice to have everything going right.
"Yeah it’s nice," said Marchand. "But you know it’s going to end at some point. You are just trying to stay even-keeled, 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."
Alas, that's the reason we call a streak "hot." It has to eventually turn cold.
But, for now, don't be surprised to see Marchand trying to keep his hands on the burner.
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