Brad Marchand was arguably the best player during the World Cup of Hockey last month and, as the tourney’s leading goal-scorer, could’ve easily won the MVP that Sidney Crosby did. But anyone who thought he was the beneficiary of his two world-class linemates is sorely mistaken for Marchand is the real deal.
Last night in the Bruins opener at Columbus, Marchand was playing his first game with both David Backes as his center (in for the injured Patrice Bergeron) and David Pastrnak on the right wing. Literally their first time ever playing as a line and Marchand was absolutely dominant in stomping all over the Blue Jackets with two goals and three assists. Simply, Marchy was an absolute fucking beast last night and it’s obvious the confidence from the WCOH performance made its way back to Boston and may be contagious. Because the line combined for six goals and six assists and carried the Bs to the resounding win. The four remaining points were all assists (Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo’s first NHL point, David Krejci and Ryan Spooner on Pasta’s ENG).
Things got off to a putrid start when Tuukka Rask was beaten on the first shot he faced 2:58 into the tilt, an Alexander Wennberg shot from the top of the slot that he has to stop. The BJs doubled the lead late in the first when Rask had no chance on a Cam Atkinson power play tally and it looked like the new season was going to pick up right where the old one left off.
But this Bruins team didn’t quit. At all. Pasta’s first of the year got them within one.
The Jackets took the lead back four minutes later when Seth Jones ripped a shot past a bevy of bodies and a screened Rask. But that would be it for Columbus for the evening as Rask shut the door and the Bs scored the last five goals of the game. In order: Backes into a wide-open net off a rebound, Backes on a sweet tip, Marchand put-back of a juicy Pasta rebound, Marchand with the doozy below, and Pastrnak (2nd, into empty net). But the second Marchand tally was a thing of beauty:
He’s just on a different level right now and making the guys around him better. And it’s a good thing that line was on because the Bs didn’t have much else going last night. Neither Krejci nor Spooner had a shot on goal and the line (along with Danton Heinen until his ice was limited in the third) failed to generate much in the way of offense. The Matt Beleskey-Austin Czarnik-Jimmy Hayes lines had a couple of nice chances but nothing really sustained. The fourth line of Dom Moore-Riley Nash-Noel Acciari did what they needed to do, with Nash winning 10 of 13 face-offs.
It’s one game of 82. Still, it’s a hell of a start. Instead of packing it in or getting down after the first losing 2-0, the Bs came out hungry in the second and took command of the game. 63-42-88 was comically dangerous last night and I can’t wait to see them in Toronto vs. the wunderkind tomorrow night.
A few more buds for your NHL Opening Week bowl…
*The Blue Jackets are one of two Civil War-inspired team nicknames in the NHL. Keep reading for the other.
*The Bs kids on D, Carlo and Rob O’Gara, acquitted themselves pretty good considering their age in their first NHL game. Carlo assisted on Marchand’s highlight reel beauty when he hit the winger with a breakout pass. But he also got caught chasing the puck once or twice, which is inevitable with young D. Still, neither of them looked like they didn’t belong out there and that’s a good sign.
*How fucking great is it to have NHL hockey back? The World Cup was nice but a mere aperitif for the 48 oz. Porterhouse that is the National Hockey League. And what a blazing start it’s gotten off to.
*Auston Matthews staked an early claim as the best American in the game by potting an unfathomable four goals in his debut at 19 years old. To watch it unfold in real time both on TV and Twitter felt like a genuine “where were you?” moment that you’ll be talking about decades from now. Alas, he still plays for the Maple Leafs so he lost in OT at Ottawa. To his credit, he manned up for fucking up on the GWG in OT.
And he also helped produce this:
*And he really accomplished a miracle by getting the Leafs on national TV in the U.S. when Boston vs. Auston in Toronto happens Saturday night. Hockey Night In Canda AND America. That’s how big this kid is. (Only local downside is game will likely be blocked out locally.)
*Not long after that and in front of Edmonton’s greatest legends, Connor McDavid began his quest to restore the Oil to NHL prominence once again by tallying two goals and an assist while rolling over Calgary in an Opening Night Battle of Alberta. That’s a hell of a way to get highly-drafted kids like Jesse Puljujarvi and Matthew Tkachuk a baptism by fire.
*Speaking of Calgary, they’re the other Civil War-inspired nickname via Atlanta.