Thursday, September 17, 2009
Marchand making an impression
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Last fall I picked Matt Hunwick as the prospect that I thought would make the best case for making the team. After the Bruins had to send him to the minors for a week to start the season because of cap reasons, Hunwick was recalled for the duration and was a key contributor to the club's season-long success.
This year I tabbed forward Brad Marchand, a second-year pro, as my potential breakout rookie before the team convened for camp. So far it looks like I've backed the right horse again.
Marchand has been one of the brightest stars through the first two exhibition games. Wednesday night in Toronto he scored a goal, fired three shots on net and was a plus-1 in a 3-2 win. But more important he was a whirling dervish on the forecheck who made life difficult for every Maple Leafs puck-carrier.
There is at least one forward spot up for grabs during this training camp, and Marchand hopes he's making his case.
"It's tough to say, it's only two games in," said the 5-foot-9, 187-pound former third-round pick (2006) after today's practices at Ristuccia Arena. "But I hope I am [making a statement to stay]. I'm trying my best out there and that's all I can do. If I impress, I impress. If not then that's how it goes."
While it might be tough for Marchand to gauge his impression on the Bruins' brass, he can rest assured that head coach Claude Julien has enjoyed watching the feisty Marchand energize the lineup.
"He plays with a lot of energy. I think where I see a lot of progression in his case is his maturity level. He's not as reckless on the ice, he's more composed, but at the same time he still plays with that same energy we've always known him to have," said Julien. "He is playing a little better positionally and he's got good skill around the net. He's got a good, quick release, has a good shot, so he's come here and you've seen he's determined to want to stick and make it with our hockey club."
That will be the key for Marchand -- playing with energy but not so much that he's caught out of position or does something to hurt his club. Last season, he collected 67 penalty minutes in 79 games (along with 59 points).
Marchand also had the benefit of skating left wing on a line with center Patrice Bergeron and winger Blake Wheeler against the Leafs. Bergeron set up Marchand's goal with a sweet pass through traffic to the front of the net.
"He's got unbelievable vision," said Marchand, who said playing with two big-time skill guys made him a tad more nervous heading into the game. "And that pass he gave me on my goal, I can't believe he got that through. It was a lot of fun playing with him."
With just two weeks to go until the season opens, Marchand looks like he has the inside track to follow the like of Milan Lucic, Wheeler and Hunwick onto the NHL roster a little ahead of schedule.