WASHINGTON -- During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand cemented his reputation as the prototypical agitator on the ice. He's the type of player you absolutely hate to play against, but you definitely want him on your team.
When the Bruins needed a goal, he produced, especially in Game 7 of the Cup finals last year, when he registered two goals and one assist as Boston defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 and hoisted hockey's most sacred chalice for the first time in 36 years.
When the Bruins needed Marchand to do the dirty work, he'd get in the face of an opponent -- no matter how big or small -- and taunt that player until he drew a penalty or caused such mental anguish it would leave the opposition boiling.
Bruins coach Claude Julien once described Marchand perfectly, saying the feisty forward is at his best when he's being "a good brat, not a bad brat."
In the first two games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals, Marchand has been fair to middling.
"It's still early in the series and sometimes it takes a little longer to get in guys' heads than it might with certain other guys, so I just need to continue to play my game and hopefully it'll draw some guys off their game," Marchand said.
Playoff time also means Julien won't single out a player's negative performance; he'll only say the entire team needs to be better, as the coach did after Saturday's 2-1 double overtime loss to the Capitals in Game 2 at TD Garden.
The series shifts to the Verizon Center for Games 3 and 4. Marchand usually thrives in hostile territory.
"Right now Brad is really focused on bringing his A-game to the table and that's his main focus, and should be his main focus right now," Julien said. "He's into the scrums, he's in everywhere, but again he's not crossing the line [or taking] bad penalties. So we're satisfied with that.
"I think right now he'll be an even bigger agitator in the way if he finds that A-game of his and his skating is there and driving the net and all that kind of stuff that he does so well. So that's just a matter of him adjusting his game a little bit and I guess him finding another gear to his game."
A year ago, Marchand led all NHL rookies in postseason goals (11), assists (8), points (19) and plus/minus (plus-12), while also posting 40 penalty minutes in 25 playoff games. Because of that success, Marchand admitted on Sunday that he could be putting too much pressure on himself to repeat his accomplishments from a season ago.
"Yeah, there's definitely a little more pressure," Marchand said. "The same thing is going to be expected and I want to be able to contribute the same way. This is a big time of the year and we need guys to step up, especially with [Nathan Horton] out, and that falls on all of us to step up more and the onus is on us. I know I have to be better."
There have been numerous times during Marchand's three-year career when Julien needed to have a closed-door meeting with the 23-year-old winger, and after each one the good brat has responded.
His maturity on the ice was evident this season. Marchand set career-highs with 28 goals, 27 assists for 55 points, as well as a plus-31. He also had 11 multi-point games and posted his first career hat trick in a five-point effort against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 23.
Julien wants Marchand's seasonal success to translate in the playoffs, but insists there's no additional pressure.
"Just to go out there and play our game. That's all we ask our players -- go out there and give it your best. If you're good at something, make sure you're the best at it," Julien said. "That's asking somebody to do something that he's supposed to be capable of doing, so, to me, somebody putting too much pressure on himself doesn't make as much sense as just going out there and doing what you have to do.
"That's what players have to realize, the mental part of the game is probably the most important part of playoff hockey and how you handle it is what's going to decide whether you have success or not."
Marchand and linemates Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin have done a solid job against the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin from a defensive standpoint. Now, Boston's second line needs to add more offensive production.
"We have to be better," Marchand said. "We're definitely doing a pretty good job of playing against their line. Part of our goal is to shut them down, but we do have to find a way to create more opportunities and be better offensively."
The Bruins would love to see Marchand flash his scoring touch. What they need from him is more of the good, the bad and the ugly.