BOSTON — Brad Marchand is no stranger to the monkey. The monkey follows him sometimes, as it does most streaky goal scorers. And that damn (dirty?) monkey has a way of coming out to play at the most inopportune times.
Much of the conversation in the Bruins dressing room Thursday night, especially around Marchand’s stall, centered around that annoying little primate. The monkey had been hanging on to Marchand like an down-on-their luck family member, following everywhere he went. Unfortunately for the Bruins, that monkey wasn’t afraid of ice and followed the Boston winger right onto the ice for the last month or so.
Marchand was finally able to rid himself of that stupid monkey Thursday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for him and the Bruins. The pesky forward scored his first goal in 13 games in the second third of the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the lowly Florida Panthers. In the process, Marchand helped jump-start a recently listless Bruins, as Boston scored four goals in a game for the first time since scoring five in Buffalo on Oct. 23.
“Yeah it’s really nice to finally get one,” Marchand said. “It’s been a while and I forget what it felt like but it’s only a lucky goal like that and it’s nice to get the monkey off the back.”
It wasn’t a pretty goal, and relatively speaking, it wasn’t that difficult of a goal. But it was a goal, nonetheless, which is all Marchand cares about at this point. He put himself in a position to score when he went to the front of the net and was right there to jam his second tally of the season by Scott Clemmensen after the Panthers goalie stopped a Dennis Seidenberg shot that was deflected by Loui Eriksson. The puck dribbled through Clemmensen’s legs and Marchand swiped it into the net.
Feeling the weight of the world — including that ever-present monkey — lifted from his shoulders, Marchand celebrated by making the universal “I’m taking a monkey off of my back” gesture while celebrating.
It was the culmination of improved play for Marchand in recent games. Not only had he not scored since Oct. 5, he looked lost out on the ice with just three assists and was a minus-5 in those 13 games between goals. But he had turned a corner of sorts recently. The return of Eriksson appeared to give him a jolt and Marchand put three shots on goal Tuesday against Dallas.
“I think a few of the [defensemen] were talking after the first period, and he had a couple of close calls,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. “We just said he’s getting closer and closer. Everyone was excited for him to get that one. He’s been skating a lot better and he’s going to the net hard. It’s good to see. We’re happy that he got that one.”
Not only did Marchand get one, the Bruins got one. After losing four of five and doing so in less-than-encouraging style, the B’s showed signs of starting to come around. After a slow first period, Boston came out and played better in the second before playing one of their best periods in a long time in the third. Sure, it came against one of the league’s worst teams, but with the Bruins had been playing, they’ll surely take what they can get.
They know they’re not out of the woods yet. They have the Toronto Maple Leafs coming up on Saturday, which will be their first meeting since the Bruins dispatched the Leafs in remarkable fashion in Game 7 of the first round last year. The first-place Leafs will be looking for revenge, which will make it even more imperative that the Bruins play even better Saturday night in their attempt to put two good showings together.
“We know that just like we were struggling for a few games in a row, it’s not going to be overnight that we just get our game back,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “So we have to get ready for the next one and slowly build on the good things we did tonight and keep it going forward.”
Sometimes for streaky goal scorers like Marchand, all it takes is one. The Bruins, with a monkey of their own of their backs, are hoping the same applies to them as well.