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DETROIT -- The Little Ball of Hate has been resurrected just in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is once again trying to aggravate his opponents, and this time it's the entire Detroit Red Wings roster he's focused on.
Known around the league as one of the game's best agitators, Marchand said at the start of this season that he wanted to control his emotions better, and he was able to accomplish that. He remained disciplined and was not fined or suspended by the league for any of his usual antics.
|Brad Marchand scuffled with Red Wings left winger Tomas Tatar in Game 2 at TD Garden on Sunday.|
But in this first-round series against the Red Wings, Marchand is trying to get under the skin of his opponent. Detroit coach Mike Babcock had a message for his players in regard to Marchand.
"Just ignore him," Babcock said. "Play hard and ignore him."
Marchand wasn't surprised when he heard that.
"I've been getting that my whole life," he said with a laugh.
Prior to this series, Marchand said, he had the inside scoop from linemate Reilly Smith that his older brother, Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, did not like him. Brendan Smith has been on the ice a lot when Boston's second line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith is out there.
Brendan Smith and Marchand collided at 5:10 of the second period during Boston's 3-0 win in Game 3 Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. As Marchand attempted to avoid the hit, the two collided and Marchand fell to the ice. He remained on his knees for a few minutes and was tended to by a team trainer. There was a penalty called on the play, Marchand laying on the ice and grabbing his knee to try and draw the call.
He remained in the game, and afterward Marchand said his leg was tingling after he landed on it. Brendan Smith wasn't buying the excuse.
"I saw a picture of where he went down. I mean he's very slippery, so you've got to make sure that you get all body, and he slipped out of my check, which was good; good play by him," Smith said. "But it was funny when he was putting all of his weight on the leg that actually got hit ... but that's Marchand. He's going to try to create that stuff. That's the kind of player he is, and he's lived off of it for a long time and that's why he's great. That's something that he's going to do, but it's kind of funny when you get caught like that when you go down on your left leg and you've got the right leg up. But that's how he is and how he plays."
The Bruins are successful when Marchand plays with an edge. It worked during his rookie season and helped Boston to a Stanley Cup title. His reputation has grown in that manner. But it's not all talking. The man can play too, and he has scored some big goals for the Bruins.
"He plays right on that line, but I think when he's playing with that emotion, it makes him an effective player and the player that he is," said teammate Milan Lucic. "When he's playing with that emotion, kind of in your face type of attitude, he can be a real great player. We know what he can do, and for as small of a guy as he is, we know how big time of a player he can be. We're going to need him to be at his best if we want to keep moving forward. I know he wants to be at his best to help contribute the best he can."
If Babcock's message to ignore Marchand is getting through to his players, it's not stopping Marchand from doing what he does.
"They don't want to do anything stupid after whistles or anything like that," Marchand said. "When you go after guys enough and you hit them, it's human nature they're going to want to hit you back.
|Marchand is escorted off the ice during the third period of Game 2.|
"You want to set a tempo; it doesn't matter who you're playing against. You want to play in your face, and that's kind of our style. When you do that, sometimes guys come back at you and they want to try to play our style of hockey and we can kind of suck guys in like that and get them off their game a little bit. It gets us more in the game, gets us to play better, and that's all I really want to do."
Numerous times during Marchand's four full seasons in the NHL, Bruins coach Claude Julien has had to reel the pesky forward back in. The Bruins don't want him to change his style of play, only to perfect it.
"We don't want him crossing the line. He's got to play his game," Julien said. "He's got to be respectful of the rules, and he's got to be respectful of what we expect from him as well. The only time he's ever gotten in trouble with us is when he crosses the line. Right now, he's being the Brad Marchand that we know, but as long as he stays within rules, I have no issue."
During the regular season, many times Marchand would skate away from a scrum after the whistle. His goal was to cut down on that stuff, and he feels he was successful. But with the Stanley Cup on the line, Marchand is starting to get feisty again.
"In playoffs it's so emotional and the tension is really high and guys are laying everything on the line, and when you do that, things get chippy," he said. "Guys are playing aggressively, and it comes out in the playoffs a little bit more when you know what's on the line and what you're expected to do."
Added Marchand, "I think I've had a pretty decent year overall. I think I've behaved myself, and I'm definitely happy about that."