- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- When Bruins forward Brad Marchand is playing at his best, he’s chirping on and off the ice. He’s aggravating opponents and pleasantly annoying his teammates.
Following Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars, Marchand sat at his locker in the Bruins’ dressing room at TD Garden and appeared distraught, which is unlike him win or lose. Sure, he hates losing, but when he’s not contributing it makes it worse.
He’s been in this slump for the majority of the season and has only one goal and three assists for four points, while sporting a minus-3 rating. In the first 14 games last season, he already had nine goals.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has spoken with Marchand about ways he can find his game, but it’s just taking a while for that to happen.
"Everything’s not just going to go right in one night,” Marchand said. “It’s a slow process and you’ve got to make sure you stay positive through it all, but hopefully I can get it back on track here soon.”
Midway through the second period of Tuesday’s game was a perfect example of Marchand’s struggles. He had the puck all alone in front of Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen with a pointblank scoring opportunity. Marchand had time and space, which is normally dangerous because of his skill around the net. This time, however, he wasn’t strong on his stick or quick with his hands and Dallas forward Valeri Nichushkin was able to create just enough of a poke check to interrupt Marchand’s scoring bid.
Other than the one play, it was evident Marchand was trying to be more engaged around the net, at the corners and in the slot area.
“I was trying to be,” he said. “I just thought a lot about past years and a lot of my success has come around the net, so I’m trying to be around there more, move my feet a little bit more because that’s one thing Claude’s talked to me about is moving my feet down low and keep moving. I’m trying to do that a bit and I definitely felt a little better.
“I saw a couple of turnovers I wish we could have back and a few opportunities I missed that normally I’d finish, but I think it’s a step in the right direction and I just have to build off of it.”
Boston produced 26 shots on net and Marchand had three of them, while linemates Patrice Bergeron had seven and Loui Eriksson managed three. It was Eriksson’s first game back in the lineup since missing the previous five due to a concussion. At the time of his head injury, the Bruins’ second line seemed to be hitting its stride. With Eriksson back and feeling healthy, that line will get a chance to recover with each player finding his role.
“Yeah I definitely felt a little more confident making plays down [in the corners and around the net],” Marchand said. “I felt back in sync with Bergy and felt good with Loui there. So, definitely like I said, a step in the right direction but still got to clean up a few areas.”
Marchand is only 25. He’s already played in two Stanley Cup finals and was a key member of the team’s 2011 championship. At the start of training camp in September, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli explained he was looking for Marchand to inherit more responsibility on and off the ice.
As Marchand tries to live up to those expectations, it seems like he’s working to regain the edge that has made him so successful. Good thing, because the Bruins -- who have a 1-3-1 record in the last five games -- are going to need the old Marchand in order to rise from their current funk.
4dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald