Brad Marchand has a way with words. He knows how to use them to his advantage when getting in opponents’ heads, and he knows which ones will get him in trouble with the referees. He’s everyone’s favorite smart aleck, but on Wednesday, it was Claude Julien who was poking fun at him, and using Marchand’s now famous guarantee of 20 goals last season to motivate the slumping forward.
“He said, ‘It’s looking like it’s going to be a tough year to get 20 again,’ or something like that, kind of a kick in the butt,” Marchand said.
Marchand, who notched 21 goals a season ago after promising Peter Chiarelli he would, had gone nine straight games without a goal and had scored just twice entering Thursday’s tilt with the Oilers. He took Julien’s words to heart and doubled his goals against Edmonton in the Bruins' 6-3 victory, redirecting a Joe Corvo shot in the second period and scoring an unassisted goal on a wrist shot in the third period.
"I think the big thing was keep it a little more simple and getting pucks to the net," Marchand said. "I was getting a lot of opportunities and they just weren’t going in. And if you keep pushing and keep getting opportunities then eventually something is going to go in and that’s what happened tonight."
Though Marchand had the second-most goals in the playoffs last season, there’s so much more to his game than just putting pucks in the net. It’s the aforementioned jawing, his speed and his play in his own end that make him such a frustrating player to play against. Though his $2.5 million cap hit might lend itself to expectations to maintain his production of a year ago, he can go without scoring and still be of value. That’s not to say he didn’t welcome his return to goal column.
“It was nice to get the monkey off the back,” Marchand admitted. “It was definitely getting frustrating, missing a lot of opportunities, so it was nice to get a couple.”
Though he’s getting opportunities, Marchand doesn’t think he’s out of the woods yet. Neither does Julien.
“He’s shooting more, and still, there’s some parts of his game right now that he’s forcing,” Julien said. “You can see he’s forcing things, some turnovers and trying to force those little passes and plays, and he’s just got to get back to playing his game. It’s speed and shooting like he did on that last one, and just going to the net and doing the things that’s given him success in the past.
“Sometimes guys try and do a little too much and they try to get a little too fancy, and it doesn’t suit their game, and that’s Brad in a nutshell. He just has to play hard and use his speed to take pucks to the net and shoot it."
RASK PLAYING MORE, WINNING MORE
It’s funny to hear Tuukka Rask say playing two games in a row is “different.”
“I can’t even actually remember the last time I played two games,” the Bruins goaltender admitted after Thursday’s win. “It felt good and it was good to get that 'W' again.”
It was Rask's second straight victory, and the Bruins’ fourth in a row. Over the last year and change, Rask hadn’t been used to getting many consecutive starts or victories, so Thursday his fortune was double.
Rask played back-to-back games on one occasion and three games in a row twice (so technically he played back-to-back games 5 times?) though both instances in which he played three in a row saw him get yanked in one of the games.
Now, Rask is in the season that followed the surprise that was Tim Thomas’ second Vezina-winning campaign. He’s in the season that’s supposed to see him get a share of those starts back. After all, he’s the goalie of the future.
So ultimately, it wasn’t too surprising when Rask was the first goaltender off the ice and back between the pipes Thursday. Even though Thomas picked up a shutout in his last start and will now have gone a week between games when he plays Saturday, the Bruins are intent on doing something they didn’t do enough last season: win in front of Rask.
“It’s hard for a goaltender to play every 10 days, and every once in a while, you’ve got to allow him to get on a roll a little bit,” Claude Julien said after the game. “I thought this was a good time for it. Obviously you guys probably know who’s going to be in net next game, but the bottom line is, we’ve got a lot of games coming up, and I wanted to get him an opportunity to get closer to him being at the best he can be, and the only way we felt we could do that was by giving him some consecutive games, so that was the reason behind it.”
Rask went just 11-14-2 a season ago, while Thomas went 35-11-9 and for the B’s. While Thomas’ numbers were off the charts (an NHL record .938 save percentage in the regular season), one of the biggest reasons for the difference in record was the fact that the B’s only managed a measly 2.55 goals per game in front of him compared to the 3.15 goals per game they gave Thomas.
It appeared Rask was in for more of the same this season when the Bruins combined for three goals in his first three starts this year and left him with a 0-3-0 start to the 2011-12 campaign.
Just when Bruins fans were probably in here-we-go-again mode, the B’s lit up the Islanders for six goals and added another six Thursday against the Oilers.
“It’s a good thing to see us scoring goals because everybody was talking about it earlier in the season and we were having a tough time scoring,” Rask said. “So it’s good to get some goals and then hopefully, we just can’t take it for granted, we have to keep working hard and pushing those pucks in and getting those scoring chances again.”
It’s safe to say Thomas will be in net Saturday against the Sabres, but if the last two games are any indication, Rask will get more work and more support than a season ago.