( Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images )

By: Lauren Spencer | Follow me on Twitter @laurenspenc

When it was announced that Patrice Bergeron would miss multiple games through the first round of the playoffs, a collective fear ran across the minds of Bruins fans. While Bergeron is one of the best players on the ice, he is also the heart of this team. In his absence, and with the loss of David Krejci, someone else had to stand up and be a leader. Brad Marchand has done just that through the first four games.

Marchand has long had a reputation as a pest within the league, which everyone can admit has been well-earned through his antics. He has amassed a total of nine hundred and seventy-three penalty minutes through his fourteen-year career. This year, however, the former rival-licking player seems to have turned a new corner. Stepping up to be the team leader, Marchand has shown calmness and maturity, making him a complete player throughout the first round.

So far in the series, Marchand has been targeted heavily by Panthers players looking to set off his temper. With repeated cross-checks and other annoyances, it seems like he would be primed to retaliate. In a showing of maturity and leadership, Marchand has let it all go. He has taken zero penalties this series and focused on playing his own game correctly. One play that sticks out was in Game Two when Radko Gudas had an extended period of going after Marchand, which was left uncalled. Past versions of Marchand may not have been keen on continuing the play without retaliation, but he did that. Leading by example, the whole team has taken this mindset of letting things go and doing their best to limit any avoidable penalties.

Through the first four games, Marchand has four points from three goals and one assist, one of his goals being scored shorthanded. Marchand has also shown leadership off the ice, taking accountability after their loss in Game Two. He acknowledged that the Panthers outplayed them in the third period, but the Bruins would respond in the following games, putting a complete sixty minutes together. That is precisely what they did, outscoring the Panthers 10-4 in Games three and four. Returning to Boston with a 3-1 series lead is huge, especially with the potential return of Patrice Bergeron for Game Five. Without Marchand’s leadership, the two games in Florida could have brought a very different series outcome.

It’s clear that Marchand garners a lot of respect in the locker room. With his talents on ice and his charisma off, he may be a candidate to take over as captain when Patrice Bergeron decides to hang up his skates. As the second longest-tenured Bruin (if you take David Krejci’s sabbatical into account), he deeply understands the culture that runs through the organization. The levels of leadership and maturity he has displayed so far are the qualities Bruins fans should want their next captain to possess. If this series indicates how a Marchand-led Bruins look, the future may continue to be bright.