Bruins

Marchand: No. 1 star speaks volumes about Bruins

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Marchand: No. 1 star speaks volumes about Bruins

BEDFORD, MA. Brad Marchand has become pretty good at deflecting the accolades that have been coming his way more and more frequently as of late.

He took the act like youve been there route even after receiving No. 1 Star of the Week honors for the first time in his career. He earned the award ahead of the Rangers' Marian Gaborik and the Avs' Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

The Bs right winger knows hes come a long way from the unproven fourth-line grinder that opened last season with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell on the Merlot Line. This year he has parlayed increased ice time and elite linemates into some prodigious offensive production. Marchand leads the Bs with 15 goals and is second with 29 points, proving that last years 20-goal season wasnt anything approaching a fluke.

Playing with Bergeron and Seguin is probably a little different than playing with me and Soup, said Thornton. Hes never really lacked confidence, so you cant say that about him. Hes always had the potential to do it and I think pucks are going in for him right now.

But Marchand plays hard and does all of the things right. Were talking about him because he had a five-point night, but hes been doing everything right for the last couple of years anyway.

Marchand's dominant performances -- a game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens and the hat trick against the shell-shocked Panthers -- made Marchand a No. 1 no-brainer for the NHL.

It speaks volumes about what the team is doing right now, and its a nice accomplishment, said a modest Marchand. Once you get to this level you realize how much it takes to get here and stay here. There are new guys coming into this league all the time trying to fight for spots and take yours.

With a team like ours everybody battles and wants to get better while pushing ourselves to the limit. Being on this team has made me want to be a better player.

Marchand is on pace for 37 goals and 70 points this season, and those are lofty statistics. But his ability to thrive and finish off plays with his shot and good skating speed have allowed him to keep pace with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and theyve become arguably the best two-way forward line in the NHL this season.

Theres a reason Seguin and Marchand are ranked 1-2 in the NHLs plusminus department, and its the marriage of goal-scoring skill with diligent attention to detail in all zones.

Bergeron is also on pace for a 70-point season. It would be the first of his career since before his concussion at the beginning of the 2007-08. Seguin is trending toward 35 goals and 80 points as a 19-year-old phenom. There may be a few more No. 1 Stars in the trios future as long as they continue whats been an electric first three months together.

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

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Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

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