BOSTON – Over the years, the Bruins have developed a weapon of mass overtime destruction in the form of left winger Brad Marchand.
Since the NHL adopted the 3-on-3 overtime in 2015-16 to help fewer regular-season games end with a shootout, Marchand has become even more of a weapon with his shifty moves and unmistakable, heavy strength on the puck. The Bruins winger was at it again Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens when he held the puck on his stick for nearly 30 seconds in overtime before swinging behind the net and flinging a puck past Antti Niemi for the game-winner in a 2-1 OT win at TD Garden.
There are times during 5-on-5 play in regulation time that the Nose Face Killah can get in a little bit of trouble hanging onto the puck, whether it’s a turnover or getting blasted with a big hit after somebody has lined up the 5-foot-8 forward. Still, in OT, it’s almost a game to watch if there’s a single defender that can take the puck off Marchand’s stick in the offensive zone. That's doubly so when it’s a gassed defensive unit he's facing as it was Saturday night.
“We were talking about that in the room. [Bruins assistant coach] Kevin [Dean] said that ‘pound for pound, he must be the strongest guy on the puck,’" Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I’d have to think about that one. Michael Nylander. Did you ever watch Michael Nylander play? I saw him in Toronto last week; he was there to watch his son." The elder Nylander, of course, played with the Bruins briefly in 2003-04. “He was very strong on the puck. Probably quicker, like turning, but very strong on the puck.
“Theo Fleury back in the day, I thought was pretty strong. I’m using smaller guys, obviously. So he’s got to be up there at one of the strongest in the league. I had [Jaromir] Jagr, but he’s 6-foot-3 and 200 [pounds]. He was a guy you couldn’t get it from when he was protecting it from. But [Marchand] does a great job. That [overtime] goal, that’s all-world. To have it that long and then be able to finish, [it’s a] hell of a play.”
It was Marchand’s 10th career overtime goal, which puts him in a tie with Dit Clapper and Glen Murray for the most OT scores in Bruins history. That’s pretty lofty company and it also confirms that No. 63 has become a certifiable OT weapon when things open up in 3-on-3 play with room to operate all over the ice.
“It’s something we’ve built on a bit. We weren’t great early on. I think just the way our team has come together has pushed our overtime units to be a little bit better and a little more productive,” said Marchand, who now has a ridiculous 61 points in 50 games. “We were a little sloppy early on but that was kind of the overall gain and now we’ve dialed it in a bit and same with the OT.
“You’re just looking for an opening and [against Montreal] you could tell they were getting a little tired out there. You just wait for that opening to show itself and it just did. [Being strong on the puck] has always been a staple for me. I never had the best hands, so I was always just trying to keep it away from people. So much of the 3-on-3 is about puck possession and holding onto it. That’s the biggest thing. Normally, when you try to go through guys that’s when you kind of break things down and you’re just trying to keep it away from everyone and find a hole.”
While many would say Marchand’s being a little too modest about the quality of his hands, there’s no question it’s the tenacious, heavy handle on the puck, combined with his shooting marksmanship, make him a lethal weapon for the Bruins in OT.