(Photo Credit: Justin Berl/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

What a difference a year can make. Just 12 months ago, the Boston Bruins were the hands-down favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup after their historic season. It was championship, or bust: there was no in-between. And while the B’s have posted another successful campaign in the record books this season, things look much different for Boston than they did last year.

In a recent ESPN media poll predicting the 2024 Stanley Cup winner this spring, not one voter chose the Bruins. The Carolina Hurricanes (seven), Dallas Stars (six), and New York Rangers (four) headline the most favorited picks among the 22 participating voters. The Bruins are heavily doubted to make a run to the finals, and for very good reason.

A top-heavy offense, leaking power play, and conspicuous goaltender situation leave many question marks as the Bruins meet the Toronto Maple Leafs in round 1 of the postseason. However, that doesn’t mean Boston doesn’t have a chance. And if they want to make a serious run back to the big dance, Brad Marchand will have everything to do with it.

There are a plethora of uncertainties looming around the Bruins going into the playoffs, and there’s no question the first round will be a grind. If the Black and Gold don’t want to be golfing in May, Marchand will need to take the reigns of this team once and for all, both on the stat sheet and with his leadership abilities.

The Bruins are 15-3-3 when Marchand lights the lamp this season. If the captain can find the back of the net this postseason, the Bruins should be in good hands. The veteran forward has been in somewhat of a slump lately, scoring just three goals in his last 17 games in what has been an up-and-down year for the 35-year-old. However, Marchand has been a different animal in the postseason, scoring a handful of memorable goals in his storied career. The Bruins will need some of that to pack their offensive punch against the Leafs.

The B’s will also benefit from his leadership and experience in his first postseason without his predecessor, Patrice Bergeron. Marchand plays his best when he sticks to his game, a feisty, hard-nosed, gritty brand of hockey that gets under the opponent’s skin. In fact, the captain plays his best when he stays true to himself, and the team around him feeds off it.

This is Brad Marchand’s team. And while it has been all season long, it’s more evident now than ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the B’s want to prove the hockey world wrong this spring, that effort started and ends with him.

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