Brad Marchand is the best all-around left winger in the NHL and an elite scorer.
But you wouldn't come to that conclusion from watching his performance in the Boston Bruins' first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes -- or the last month, for that matter.
Marchand is in one of the worst goal-scoring slumps of his career. He has tallied only one goal in his last 15 games dating back to early April, and that goal was an empty-netter against the lowly Buffalo Sabres in the second-to-last matchup of the regular season.
He's been a complete non-factor offensively for the Bruins in Round 1. He's posted zero goals and one assist, while generating just two shots on net in 24:15 of 5-on-5 ice time through two games.
The bad side of Brad Marchand also showed up in Wednesday night's Game 2 loss. He was slashed on the back of the leg by Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov, and instead of skating away, he retaliated by slashing him back right in front of the referee. Marchand was assessed a minor penalty, taking him off the ice at a critical juncture in the game with Boston trailing 2-0 and the intensity ramping up.
The Hurricanes' top players are performing at a high level in this series. First-line center Sebastian Aho has three points in two games. Andrei Svechnikov has found the scoresheet in each matchup. Jordan Staal has dominated in the faceoff circle and led Carolina's exceptional penalty kill.
The Bruins' big guns, with the exception of Patrice Bergeron in Game 2 (more on that below), haven't showed up on a consistent basis. Boston doesn't have enough scoring depth to beat Carolina four times in seven games if its top players aren't producing offensively.
Marchand, as the team's leading scorer over the last three years, needs to create much more offense for himself and teammates or the Bruins' season will come crashing down over the next week.
Here are some other Bruins notes from Game 2.
-- The Bruins are trailing 0-2 in a playoff series for the first time since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. They lost the first two games in Vancouver before ultimately winning a championship in Game 7. They also eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in the 2011 first round after losing the first two games at home.
--The Bruins did very little to challenge Hurricanes rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov after he entered the game in the first period to replace an injured Antti Raanta. Boston tallied just three shots on net in the first 10 minutes that Kochetkov was on the ice.
-- Bergeron was the Bruins' best player Wednesday night. He scored both of Boston's goals, including the team's first power-play tally of the series in the second period.
Bergeron's first goal moved him past Bruins legend Phil Esposito for the second-most playoff goals in team history. The B's captain has 48 total, seven behind Cam Neely for the franchise record.
-- It wouldn't be surprising to see Jeremy Swayman as the starting goalie in Game 3. Ullmark hasn't played terribly in this series. At least four of Carolina's goals have come on deflections and with traffic in front of the net. It's been tough for Ullmark to locate pucks with so many bodies around his crease. Carolina also scored twice on the power play in Game 2, including a 5-on-3 goal.
But despite all the difficulties, the Bruins still needed a couple clutch saves from Ullmark and they didn't get enough of them.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy has to tweak the lineup entering Game 3, and a goalie switch is one of the most effective ways to give his team a new look and maybe even a boost of energy. Swayman struggled over the last two months of the season, posting an .891 save percentage over his last 17 appearances. But the rookie goalie also was dominant at times during the regular season, and giving him his first start at home as opposed to on the road is preferable.
Average or good goaltending isn't going to be enough for Boston in this series. They need better, and rolling the dice to see if Swayman can provide that level of play in net is worth the gamble.
-- David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Craig Smith, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and Marchand have combined to score zero goals in this series.
It's also been difficult for several of the Bruins' top-nine forwards to put many shots on net during 5-on-5 play.
- Jake DeBrusk: Three shots in 23:13
- Erik Haula: Two shots in 26:28
- Brad Marchand: Two shots in 24:15
- Charlie Coyle: Two shots in 21:49
- Trent Frederic: One shot in 16:52
-- The Hurricanes have scored first in all five games against the Bruins this season, and they haven't trailed for a single second in any of those matchups. Carolina's 41 wins when scoring first (including the playoffs) are the second-most of any team in the league.
-- Trent Frederic has given the Bruins nothing offensively in this series. He's been held without any points, he's tallied only one shot on net in two games, and he was basically benched Wednesday night after a bad interference penalty in the second period. Frederic ended up playing just 6:02.
The 2016 first-round draft pick needs to be a healthy scratch in Game 3. Chris Wagner, who has plenty of playoff experience in a bottom-six role, is the best option to come into the lineup for Frederic.