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Amid early growing pains, Brad Marchand leaving his own stamp as Bruins’ emotional leader

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“Really felt like he threw us on his back and said ‘I’ll take us across the finish line here’”.

Brad Marchand completed his hat trick in the third period on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

The more things change, the more they’ve stayed the same for Brad Marchand.

After 14 seasons in Boston, the “C” was stitched on Marchand’s sweater this fall — a fitting achievement for the star winger, but one that also stood as a double-edged sword.

Marchand’s ascension as Boston’s captain was a byproduct of his longtime teammate Patrice Bergeron deciding to hang up his skates after forging a Hall-of-Fame career.

Even as the elder statesmen in the Bruins’ revamped dressing room, Marchand needed some time to adjust without having his best friend stapled to his hip — both on and off the ice.

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“I think that I’m feeling a lot more comfortable now than early in the season and training camp,” Marchand said Sunday night of Bergeron’s impact. “Just the way that we would even practice together every day. We did literally every drill together. We’re always talking on the bench. So many different things changed with him leaving. But it takes some time to build chemistry with different guys.”

Some of those growing pains have reflected themselves on the scoresheet, with Marchand in the midst of a five-game scoreless stretch last month that coincided with Boston’s worst regular-season losing streak since the 2021-22 campaign.

But over the weekend, Marchand got back to what he’s done time and time again in Boston: Dragging his team into the fight.

Less than 24 hours after Marchand found twine in Toronto with seven seconds to go in overtime, the Bruins’ captain lifted his team to another two points on Sunday against the Blue Jackets — recording a natural hat trick in the first 7:46 of the third period en route to a 3-1 win. 

“Really felt like he threw us on his back and said ‘I’ll take us across the finish line here,’” Charlie McAvoy said Sunday. “He has that capability. He plays with so much passion and energy, playing on a back-to-back and with a little bit of fatigue… He’s Cap. That’s what he does.”

Marchand, who has now scored four goals in his last two games, lit the lamp three times in the span of 5:50. The last Bruins player to record a hat trick in a shorter span of time was Martin Lapointe on March 13, 2003 (5:15).

It was an emotional weekend for Marchand, who noted postgame on Sunday that his maternal grandmother, Frances O’Leary, passed away on Friday.

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Marchand has carved out a lofty resume in Boston operating on passion, energy, and drive whenever he hops over the boards.

And on Sunday, Marchand willed his team to a win with one of the strongest stretches of his impressive career.

“You can see it just as much as we can,” McAvoy said of Marchand’s knack for taking games over. “He’s just a special player and it’s what he’s done his whole career. So it was awesome to see, not only last night with him getting the winner and then carry it over today. He means the world to this group. When he’s in that zone, we’ve just got to follow along.”

On the second leg of a back-to-back slate, the Bruins paid homage to the punchless Patriots in the first two periods of play Sunday — failing to make a dent on the scoreboard despite peppering Columbus goalie Spencer Martin with several Grade-A shots. 

Marchand finally took matters into his own hands coming out of the second intermission, opening the scoring just 1:56 into the third period after taking a no-look feed from Danton Heinen and beating Martin with a soft one-time shot.

He gave Boston the lead for good on the power play, snapping a puck over Martin’s glove at 5:37 in the frame. With a re-energized Garden crowd still on his feet, Marchand banished another Jackets skater to the sin bin less than two minutes later after Johnny Gaudreau was whistled for tripping him up.

Marchand made good on Gaudreau’s infraction in short order, uncorking another screaming wrist shot that sailed past Martin and unleashed an avalanche of caps and toque upon the frozen sheet. 

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“He’s just an excellent player and he helps you win, even if he’s not scoring,” Jim Montgomery said of Marchand. “So I don’t worry about production, per se, with him. It’s going to come. We know that. But what I like is — we had three in four and with travel and some weather issues last night and we expected it to be a little — we didn’t know what we were gonna get tonight.

“Just because it’s not an easy game. And Columbus is playing well. They’re a hard team to play against. And I just liked the fact that we stayed with it. We didn’t get frustrated, the bench stayed positive and we’re able to find a way in the third.”

Of course, having a leader with Marchand’s skillset setting the tone in the third can go a long way.

But for Marchand, the same message that he’s preached throughout this year hasn’t strayed all that much from the sentiments echoed by the likes of Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and other Bruins leaders who held plenty of sway in Boston’s room before it was Marchand’s time to take the helm.

“I just think that it’s very easy to get down when you’re losing a couple of games,” Marchand noted. “But for us, it’s so much bigger than that and it’s about the way that we play, our process and you can never get too high, you can never get too low in this game and that’s the biggest thing. You can’t change the past.

“You have to be ready to come in and work and try to be better every single day and that’s something that a lot of guys that came before me and that I got the opportunity to play with instilled in this group. And [it’s] just something we want to try to uphold — that every day, we come in here, we try to get better. And if we do that then, we drop a few games in a row, but we’re gonna win a majority of our games. Again, it’s just about the process.”

The process hasn’t changed all that much for Boston, even with each new captain that has taken the mantle for the Bruins.

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But through his first two months as the leader of the Bruins, Marchand is leaving his own stamp on the post — and letting the wins pile up as a result.

Source: Boston Globe

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