(Photo Credit: NESN)
By: Ian Smith | Follow me on Twitter @IanMalcolmSmith
In a season that has been largely defined by injuries to key players, part of the reason the Boston Bruins remain in good position for the playoffs near the halfway point of the season has been the play of Brad Marchand. Through 38 games, Marchand is second on the Bruins with 41 points, including 12 goals and a team-leading 29 assists. He is expected to miss the next game against the Buffalo Sabres with an upper-body injury, and if he ends up being out for an extended period of time, it would be a huge blow for a team that has had to deal with so many injuries this season.
Brad Marchand, who took a high hit in the first minute of Thursday’s game, also was hit by Travis Zajac in the final minutes of the third period.
He headed down the tunnel after this sequence and didn’t return for the end of the game. pic.twitter.com/51r636bmc0
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 28, 2018
Marchand is not only one of the Bruins most prolific generators of offense but also operates as an indispensable spark-plug in this lineup. He’s one of the league’s most notorious agitators, and the type of guy who’s a pest if you play against him, but beloved when he’s on your squad. Marchand has been one of the most penalized players in the NHL this season and is well on pace to rack up the most penalty minutes of his career this season. He is tied for the league lead with 78 penalty minutes and three misconduct penalties. He has also been accumulating plenty of minor penalties as well. Marchand is tied for fourth in the league with 19 minor penalties, second with six slashing penalties, and tied for sixth with five roughing penalties. He can really get into the head of opponents with his gritty play.
When he hasn’t been in the penalty box, though, Marchand has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in this Bruins lineup. The top line has carried a disproportionate load of the scoring this season, and Marchand is having another great season. Marchand is the only player in the NHL who has scored at least 34 goals in each of the previous three seasons, although he might not continue that streak this season. Marchand has scored exactly 85 points in each of the last two seasons, and while he’s likely to equal or surpass that total this season if he doesn’t miss an extended stretch of games, it will be based more on his assists than those previous two seasons.
Before this season, Marchand had never registered more than 51 assists in a season, and that output came last season. With 29 assists through 38 games this season, Marchand is well on his way to setting a new career high in that category. The goals haven’t been there this season relative to what he’s capable of, and his 10.6% shooting percentage so far this season would be 2.7% less than his previous low for a season in which he has played at least 25 games.
He has 113 shots on goal this season, averaging about 2.97 shots on goal per game. The only season in his career in which he has surpassed that was about 3.25 shots on goal per game in 2015-16. Marchand’s relatively down season thus far in goal scoring is more due to not having been able to finish as opposed to just not getting enough pucks on net.
Marchand has averaged about 1.04 points per game in January and about 0.88 points per game in February during his career, his best two months in that category. Given his already strong start in terms of racking up points, and with two of his most successful months yet to come, Marchand really looks poised to finish this season with more points than he has ever finished a season with if this upper-body injury doesn’t force him to miss numerous games. The Bruins really need him in their lineup.