BOSTON, MA - Heading into tonight’s matchup with the New York Islanders, who are coming off of a 7-4 victory in Toronto, the B’s are looking to continue to improve and build off the positives from the first three games.
One player, specifically, looking to step up his game is winger Brad Marchand.
Marchand has increased his offensive numbers each year since he has been a regular in B’s lineup. He scored 28 goals last season, up from 21 in 2010-11, while his points increased from 41 to 55. The ‘Little Ball of Hate,’ as he was labeled after the B’s Stanley Cup win in 2011, has also had a sky-high plus/minus over the past two seasons - plus-25 in 2010-11 and plus-31 in 2011-12.
Tough numbers to live up to, especially in a shortened season, but Marchand has high standards. Even though he leads the Black & Gold with two goals – one being the B’s lone power-play tally of the young season – the agitator is still not completely satisfied with his play.
Marchand, who’s next point will be the 100th of his career, feels that there is another level to take his game to and it is coming, game by game.
“It’s been alright,” said Marchand of his play so far. “I still don’t feel that I’m playing my best. You just got to continue to build on each game and get a little bit better, feel a little more comfortable. It definitely helps when pucks are going in a little bit. Still a little ways to go.”
Head Coach Claude Julien is more encouraged by Marchand’s game. He wasn’t as concerned about No. 63 not playing overseas in Europe as he was about some other players like Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Smaller guys, the B’s coach said, are able to get back into the swing of things faster than the bigger bodies.
“That’s the one thing I said about guys like Marchand,” said Julien following the B’s morning skate today. “They’re smaller; they seem to be able to catch up a lot quicker. They don’t have as much body mass to carry around and stuff like that. Normally, smaller players will bounce back a little quicker.
“We weren’t as concerned about Brad as we were about our bigger bodies. That’s why I keep mentioning those other two guys [Horton and Lucic], because they were, to me, the biggest challenge and they’ve answered that call.
“Brad is a guy who has always been in pretty good shape, and we know he’s pretty dynamic in his own way. Right now, he seems like his preparation to games and his conditioning was good enough that he seems like he hasn’t missed a beat.”
While Marchand is looking to work on his game, so too are his linemates. Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron both have yet to score this season, but Seguin says the goals will come as the line starts to find its chemistry again.
“It’s a lot worse than maybe some people think from up top or outside,” said Seguin of the difficulty of gelling with his linemates again. “It does take a while to gain chemistry with guys, even if we’ve been playing for the same team. Once you get a powerful unit together you’ve got to figure out many things you see with passing routes, proper times, and if the weak side D-man is going down and you’ve got no one, who’s going.
“That just takes time from repetition and gaining experience with each other. I have no doubt it my mind that [the puck] going to start going in a lot.”
Seguin is pleased with the overall play of his line, though, even if there aren’t a lot of goals on the score sheet. The trio has been creating numerous scoring opportunities, while Bergeron has continued to play his dominant overall game - he ranks seventh in the NHL, winning 65.3% of his faceoffs - and Seguin has shown marked improvement in his defensive game, leading the team in plus/minus at +3.
“They’re very good defensively, I think, and we can thrive on that,” said Seguin of Marchand and Bergeron. “I thought we created tons of opportunities in the first three games, lots of chances. Marshy’s buried a couple. You know it’s been fun.”
When the line starts clicking on all cylinders, the real fun will begin.
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