Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand suffered quite a bit of damage to his nose during Monday night's game against the Washington Capitals. Since then, he's scored five goals in the last two games (and eight goals in his last four games).
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
Marchand is on an absolute tear offensively, and his latest outburst came Wednesday night when the Bruins thumped the rival Montreal Canadiens 5-1 at TD Garden.
A hat trick from Marchand -- the fifth of his career -- led the way in a dominant all-around performance from the B's.
His goals against the Canadiens probably won't be on any highlight reels. To be fair, there was plenty of skill involved, but they were more of the hard-nosed, dirty goal-variety than the pretty snipes.
Good things happen when you go to the net, though, and Marchand proved that on all three of his tallies. He was unafraid to mix it up in the toughest areas of the ice, even with a broken nose.
Marchand is now up to 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 28 games, which leads the B's. He's on pace to score above a point-per-game rate for the sixth consecutive season, and he's also on track to hit the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career.
The veteran forward has been the highest scorer in the league since the calendar flipped to 2022. Since Jan. 1, Marchand's 12 points (eight goals, four assists) lead all scorers.
Marchand is the best athlete in Boston right now. There's no one on the Celtics, Patriots or Red Sox playing at a higher level than Boston's first-line left wing.
Since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, the only players on the planet with more points than Marchand's 195 are Edmonton Oilers centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (the last two Hart Trophy winners).
Marchand was fifth in MVP voting last season. Barring some sort of extended absence in 2021-22, he should again be a top contender for that award. Not only is Marchand giving the Bruins consistent scoring, he remains an excellent defensive player and one of the best shorthanded players in the league. After scoring on the penalty kill against the Canadiens, Marchand is now tied for 14th on the all-time shorthanded goals (33) leaderboard.
Marchand's excellent performance this month has vaulted the Bruins to new heights. They've won six of their seven games in 2022 since returning from a two-week December break caused by COVID-19. Boston's recent surge has helped keep a top-three finish in the Atlantic Division a realistic objective.
The key to the Bruins' stellar play of late has been an offensive explosion. The B's were 30th of 32 teams in 5-on-5 goals scored from Opening Night through Dec. 31. But in the New Year, the Bruins lead the league with 26 goals at 5-on-5. Only five teams have more than 13 5-on-5 goals over that same span.
This improved scoring isn't just coming from the top line. All four lines are contributing, and that was the case Wednesday, too, as fourth-liner Curtis Lazar scored twice himself.
"When you look at all the good teams around the league, they have the depth and they have the depth scoring and guys creating energy," Marchand told reporters after beating Montreal.
"We don't expect every guy to score every night throughout our lineup, but you have to bring something to the table that's gonna help the team win. Whether that's puck battles in front or blocking shots or winning battles, being hard on the other team, being physical. Whatever it is, you have to bring something. Most guys do that every night. They bring energy."
After integrating plenty of new players up front (and in net) at the beginning of the season, it took the Bruins a few months to find the best line combos and build chemistry with new teammates unfamiliar with Boston's system.
Now that most of these players have settled into roles where they can be effective, consistently positive results from a team and individual perspective are starting to show. The Bruins, as a result, could be one of the toughest teams in the league to beat over the second half of the regular season.
"I do believe this is closer to who we are in terms of our pace of play," head coach Bruce Cassidy said in his postgame presser Wednesday.
"At the start of the year, we weren't playing as fast with the puck. We weren't supporting as well. Some of that is new people in a new system. Some of that is us making sure we're reinforcing to the players what we're looking for. Some of it is just getting into the rhythm of the game, getting some results."
The Bruins are back in action Thursday night. Tuukka Rask returns to the net as Boston tries to continue its hot start to 2022 against the Philadelphia Flyers.