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B's Marchand shows remorse

By CONOR RYAN, Springfield, Mass.

May 09. 2018 9:40PM
Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand argues with referees after being called for embellishment against Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman during the first period of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday. (Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

BOSTON — Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was frank when discussing how playing on the edge helped him carve out a spot on a NHL roster.

“I’ll never say that it didn’t get me into the league, because it definitely helped,” Marchand said Wednesday. “I got here playing a certain way and I’ll never look back and say that I wished I changed it, because I don’t.”

Now wrapping up his ninth season in the league, Marchand is no longer just regarded as a pest on a fourth line. Production-wise, Marchand is now one of the top forwards in the league, averaging 36 goals over the last three seasons, but he hasn’t be able to shake his reputation as a dirty player.

It’s not like the 29-year-old has done much to erase that aspect of his game.

This season alone, Marchand has been fined twice and suspended five games for elbowing Devils forward Marcus Johansson, while later earning criticism from opposing teams and a reprimand from the league office for licking opposing players during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Speaking during the Bruins’ end-of-season media interviews Wednesday, a contrite Marchand admitted that he needs to take a step back and try to cut out some of the more controversial aspects of his game — especially if he wants to establish himself as more of a leader in the locker room.

“That’s kind of been something I’ve wanted to work on for the last few years,” Marchand said. “Just work more on that role. I’ve got to figure some s--- out before that’s really going to happen to get to the next level where (Patrice Bergeron) (Zdeno Chara), (David Krejci) and (David Backes) are. I’ve got to get rid of that stuff. The next few years, I think my biggest thing is turning around more of the character side of things than my game.”

Playing with an edge has helped Marchand blossom into one of the most dynamic forwards in the league, but Marchand was candid when discussing what he might sacrifice if it means cleaning up his game.

Going forward, he still expects to be a tenacious player that’s hard to knock off the puck, but if he needs to cut back on his numbers to avoid getting into trouble with the league office, than so be it.

“There’s a difference between having an edge and being stupid,” Marchand said. “I think that’s the biggest thing and where I get into trouble — controlling my split-second reactions. I’m at that point now, where if you look at the last few years. If I have to cut out that edge and drop 15-20 points, maybe that’s worth it.”

For Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, Marchand’s habit of towing the line between agitator and dirty player is a product of his competitiveness. Regardless, Chara added that Boston needs Marchand to stay on the ice and out of the crosshairs of the league if he wants to help the Black and Gold take the next step.

“Brad is one of the most competitive players that I play with,” Chara said. “He’s a good person, a great father and he’s a great teammate. He competes, he plays on the edge. ... He’s one of the best left wingers in the league.

“He’s got to realize that his contributions on the ice for this team is very important and he’s got to enjoy the times when he’s on top of his game. ... I’m sure that he will have some thoughts about some of this stuff and make sure that these things don’t affect his game and he will be better.”

Will there be growing pains if Marchand plans to readjust his style of play for the 2018-19 season? Of course.

From his early days playing youth hockey in Nova Scotia, Marchand has always tried to find an advantadge by getting under the skin of opposing players.

Marchand might have used that to his advantage as a unpolished player looking to break into the league, but as one of the most skilled wingers at the pro level, he’s come to terms with the fact that his usual M.O. might have run its course.

“When you play a certain way without consequences for 25 years, it’s hard to just flip a switch and for that all to be gone,” Marchand said. “Maybe I haven’t paid enough attention to it because I felt like I could get away with it and deal with the consequences because I was still being a good player.

“f I wasn’t having the years that I was having, would I be in the league? I don’t know. ... Maybe I took advantage of the situation a little bit more and didn’t feel the need to change. .. I feel like now I’m in the position where I don’t need to do that.”