Bruins winger Brad Marchand has kept a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. In his final regular-season installment, Brad talks about facing the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, what turned things around for the Bruins this season, whose playoff beard will be the worst and what he learned in his second season. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
In March, things turned around for us. We had a meeting to talk about how we have to get back to playing the way we did before. I think our attitude changed after that. We knew we had to be better if we wanted to make the playoffs. Things just started clicking a little bit better after that meeting. Team meetings are sometimes called by the coach when he wants us to go over video, but this time the players called one. Some things had to be said. I can confirm I was not one of the ones talking, I just listened.
So what’s been happening since my last diary? Over the past month, we took a long road trip to the West Coast, and while my prank war with Soupy (Gregory Campbell) didn’t continue, [Andrew] Ference got in on the action, snapping photos on the plane ride out there of a sleeping Soupy and Looch [Milan Lucic]. There’s a lot of great pictures flying around right now. The one of Looch is definitely one of the better ones. When Looch sleeps, it seems like he makes the best faces. He actually has to have his own room on the road because he snores so loud. You can only imagine what we have to deal with on the plane.
It’s never good seeing one of your teammates go down with an injury, and that’s what I felt when Tuukka [Rask] went down last month. He’s a big part of our team and had been playing well. So it’s always scary seeing a guy get hurt. They brought in [Marty] Turco and now [Anton] Khudobin is up, and Tuukka is getting healthy. So we have four really good goalies right now.
I mentioned our team meeting helped turn things around, but another factor is our penalty kill has been good. Going into the playoffs, you want your special teams to be really good. That’s why we won last year, our special teams were great at the right times. Our PK is a big asset to our team. We want to continue to get better every game.
We also continue to be a third-period team, like when we scored four goals in the third against the Islanders at the end of March. We get very confident when we are tied or down by a goal. We seem to find that extra little energy that we need to get a couple goals. Hopefully we continue to do that.
For me, I haven’t been feeling that bad out there. Obviously, we have a pretty successful team that can put some pucks in the net. I’ve been fortunate to play with some very skilled players. They give me some easy goals.
Segs [Tyler Seguin] ended up with more goals on the team for the season than I had [Editor’s note: Marchand finished with 28 and Seguin with 29, the most goals on the Bruins this season.]. I could have tied him for the most goals in overtime in this last game against the Sabres. I missed that one in overtime on purpose. He was crying about how he wanted it, so I let him have it and missed that one on purpose. I guess that gives him bragging rights. Segs is a great player. And playoff goals won’t count to add to the tally, just regular-season goals counted -- unfortunately for me.
Segs also ended up being the overall points leader on the team. Yeah, you're welcome Segs! Well, we were on the same line. He’s an unbelievable player. He has so much talent and skill. It’s great to watch him improve every day and improve as a player and a person. You can tell he’s going to be a great player for years to come.
Last year I won the Seventh Player Award; this year, he did. For me, it was a big accomplishment. It shows that people like how you play and understand you’re improving as a player. It’s a huge award around Boston. It’s a good one to win. When Segs won this year, we said to him, “Second overall picks don’t have the biggest expectations anymore.” We gave it to him a little bit.
Since we’re talking about teammates, there are a few more I wanted to mention. [Zdneo] Chara played in his 1,000th game in March when we played the Kings and that is impressive. It shows that you have had a very long career and you’ve been pretty healthy throughout that time. A guy like Z, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has 2,000 games. He’s a great player. Very few people get to do that, so it’s definitely a big accomplishment. Another defenseman I want to talk about is Johnny [Boychuk], who is a Masterton Trophy finalist and a very big part of this team. He’s been playing really well this year. Hopefully he gets better every day from his knee injury and will be ready for the playoffs.
I have to also talk about my linemate Bergy [Patrice Bergeron]. He should win the Selke Award. Look at him, he has over 60 points, leads the league in plus/minus. He’s a player that in every single game gives our team the opportunity to win. We wouldn’t be in the position we are now without him. We wouldn’t have won last year if it wasn’t for him. He’s one of the players that you would hate to play against because he’s such a pain in the butt because he’s always right on you. He’s always in the best position and contributes both offensively and defensively. He’s a guy you need on your team to win a championship. If you are going to build a franchise, he’s the kind of guy you want on your team.
If I were to ever win an award, I’d love to win the Selke Award myself one day. It shows you care about all three zones on the rink. You care about playing a defensive game, and, like I said those are the guys you need on your team to win championships. I want to be that kind of player.
I should say, though, that winning the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy and John P. Bucyk Award this year was certainly a big honor as well. I’m proud to get those awards.
Playing in my second year, I learned that it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. On any given night, any team can beat anyone on any given night. Especially after winning last year, it seems every team has something to prove when you play them. You have to be a consistent player and put it all on the line every night if you want to win.
I also learned I have the best roommate on the road in the league in Dennis Seidenberg. He sleeps with the TV on and the blinds open.
Anyway, I almost reached the goals I set for myself this year. I was aiming for 30 goals. I came close. My defensive game is something I wanted to improve on. I was a bit slow with that, but I feel like that’s been getting better as of late.
The last game of the regular season was a good game against Buffalo [4-3 overtime shootout win]. We wanted to go out on a good note and play good hockey. We wanted to make sure we came prepared and focused on doing the right things. Now I can’t wait for this playoff ride to start up again. It’s the best time of year and it’s what we play for all season long. For it to finally be here, we’re all very excited about it. This year’s playoffs will be a little different for us because we’ll be without [Nathan] Horton [concussion]. He was a big part of the playoffs last year, scoring a lot of important goals for us. He’s a big loss to our team, but it’s something we have to deal with. Every team goes through times when they have injuries. How you deal with it, and regroup to play through it, says a lot about your team. We know he’s a big loss, but at the same time we can’t do anything about it.
Winning the division title is big. The biggest thing about that is that it gives us home-ice advantage for at least the first round and maybe the second. It’s a pretty good accomplishment. It means we had a pretty good season. It’s something we can be proud of, but there’s more we want to win this year.
In order for us to repeat as Stanley Cup champions we need to use our experience to our advantage. When we play our best game every single night, we give ourselves an opportunity to win each night. We just have to come prepared to sacrifice everything every night. If we can do that, maybe we’ll get lucky. Also, Tim Thomas is definitely a big key. We wouldn’t have won last year without him. We’re going to need him to play the same way again this year.
We’re facing Washington in the first round. I think they’re a tough team with a lot of skill. We’re going to have to bring our A game every night. Players to look out for on their team are obviously Alex Ovechkin, and also Alexander Semin. Ovechkin has been one of the top players in the league for the last number of years. Semin is a very, very good player. They also have a couple good defensemen who can score some goals. They have been playing very, very well of late and have given us a bit of trouble this year, which is why we have to bring our best game every night.
Playoff beards our coming. We all recently shaved our heads for charity. I like my hair buzzed off. It’s a good haircut for summer. As for beards, though, the best ones will definitely be Z, Bergy and Timmy. They all can grow pretty good ones. The worst is going to be Segs or Tuukka. They will have very patchy ones that won’t be the prettiest.
Obviously we want to win again. Hopefully we can make that happen. It’s funny, when you’re in a town like Boston, you’re expected to win every year and the pressure is there every year. There’s a ton of pressure right now to repeat from the city. As I said, hopefully we can make that happen for them. We’ll see. Repeating is obviously a very tough thing to do. We definitely have our hands full.
We have incredible fans. The support they showed us this year and last year is unbelievable. Everywhere you go now you can see Bruins shirts, jerseys and hats. It’s amazing. Every night, they’re like a seventh player out there. They give us a chance to win with their energy and everything. We definitely wouldn’t have won without them last year. Hopefully they can help us again this year.