PITTSBURGH – Brad Marchand is still on pace for 35 goals and 107 points and he’s one of the best players in the league, so his expression and his words don’t betray much of a lack of confidence. The 31-year-old winger has been through slumps and tough times before, and he’ll undoubtedly go through them again.
But Marchand also hopes that his empty net goal at the end of Thursday night’s win over the Penguins represents an escape from a current slump that’s seen him score just three goals since the beginning of December. And so does his head coach.
“I think he’s fighting it and he’d be the first to admit it. The puck is not cooperating with like he’d like it to, and that’s aside from the [missed] shootout. That’s in general,” said Bruce Cassidy. “When he’s in all alone the pucks are bounding when he thinks they are going to be flat and that can get on your nerves a little bit. You think you’ve got to flatten a puck when it’s already flat and there goes your time and space.
“Every player can have those moments, especially when you are handling the puck a lot. But he’s looked good [the last few days] and hopefully that translates.”
It has also seen him tweet out a self-aware message that he’s searching for a pair of “hands that have either been lost or stolen” and hopes they be returned to TD Garden.
ATTENTION...hands have been lost or stolen, if found please return to TD Garden...thanks— Brad Marchand (@Bmarch63) January 17, 2020
“You’ve got to have fun with it. I’m not happy with missing a breakaway and missing a shootout, especially with the game on the line,” said Marchand. “But [expletive] happens. We’re in the middle of January. We’re not in the playoffs or anything like that. We’re in a good position as a team and one of the top teams in the league right now.”
Given that the offensive downturn has also included Marchand completely whiffing on a shootout attempt earlier this week as well in a loss to the Flyers, he felt it was about time that he poked a little fun at himself.
“It just hasn’t gone in. That stuff happens. There was a stretch there where I was having bad games and the puck was still finding the back of the net, so it all evens itself out. It’s been a while since I had a stretch like this, but it happens, and it happens to everybody.
“You just play through it. There are other areas of the game you can focus on and play well. It’s nice to get one to up the confidence a little bit, but it’s going to come. I play with too good players and get put into too many good opportunities for it to not [come], so it’s just a matter of time.”
Now that the Bruins have won a game they played well in against the Penguins, Marchand felt like he could open up a little bit more about his mindset in the immediate aftermath of completely fanning on his shootout attempt. Given who he is within the world of the NHL, he knew he was going to hear about it and he absolutely did.
But he’s also looking at from the perspective of one of the best players in the world flubbing something on the ice. It happens from time to time even to the best ones, or the ones that opposing fan bases around the NHL are waiting to carve up.
“This stuff happens in hockey. [Connor] McDavid dumped the puck in the corner in a shootout and so did [John] Tavares,” said Marchand, who admitted he’s been battling some bumps and bruises that should get time to heal over the NHL All-Star break and bye week.
“They’re two of the best players in the league. Stuff happens to good players and you just battle through it. Not everybody is great every night. You need to laugh at yourself. I laugh at everybody else, so if you’re going to chirp people you need to take it and chirp yourself.
“Obviously everybody is looking for a reason to troll. Keyboard heroes or warriors, or whatever you want to call them. That’s part of it. They feel like they pay us to chirp us. It’s going to come.
"I can laugh at it too. It’s not a huge deal and it’s the same as if I just went down and missed it. It’s the same result. You just look at it in that context, and by the way my penalty shots have been going that’s what was going to happen either way. We have such short careers that you need to enjoy every day whether it’s a good or a bad day.”
Given that Marchand is talking about and snapped out of his scoreless stretch with the empty netter earlier this week, it stands to reason that the offense is going to return in pretty short order as well.