BOSTON — Brad Marchand left the TD Garden ice before expected on Thursday morning after suffering an apparent injury at Bruins’ morning skate. It was cause for concern for Bruins fans to say the least.
It was nothing, assured Bruins coach Claude Julien, and sure enough Marchand was out there for Game 1 against the New York Rangers just a few hours later.
The next time Marchand left the Garden ice, however, his departure was met with exultation.
Marchand played the role of hero in Game 1 of the Bruins’ second-round series with the New York Rangers as it was the pesky forward who scored the game-winning goal 15:40 into overtime, allowing the Bruins to skate off winners in the series opener.
“There was nothing there,” Julien said of the apparent injury issue. “It was very minor. It might have looked major to you guys, but that’s why I said he’d be fine tonight. Maybe that’s what he needed to do, to get off the ice a little early to score that winning goal. Whatever works is good for us.”
Marchand could likely get behind that plan.
“I’m serious, I wanted to get off the ice,” Marchand joked in the dressing room after the game. “Claude knows I hate morning skates. He used to yell at me when we won the [Stanley] Cup there because I wouldn’t even take a stride. I just wanted to get off early.”
The game-winner was certainly a big goal for Marchand who was coming off a first-round series that was short on production and big on frustration for both Marchand and his linemates. Julien eventually decided that it was time to change things up. He did so by pairing Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with Jaromir Jagr in Game 7 of the Toronto series. It showed signs of working in that game, and the success carried over into Game 1 against New York, Marchand’s best game of the playoffs so far.
The fresh look, both with a new linemate and starting a new series against a new team, seemed to jump-start Marchand. He was much more active, skating hard and making a difference in all three zones.
“Yeah, it’s a whole new series and we’re happy to play the Rangers,” Marchand said after breaking through with his first goal of the playoffs, and his first goal overall since April 21. “They’re a very good team and a very good battle. It’s nice to finally get one there and get the monkey off the back, and hopefully they keep coming.”
The Boston forward, who led the Bruins in goals this season, also got a little bit of encouragement from a former teammate. Mark Recchi, who won a Stanley Cup with Marchand in 2011, texted his former teammate to offer a little advice.
“He just texted me and told me to play my game and not to worry about anything else,” Marchand said. “The goals and stuff will come. It’s nice to hear from him. He’s obviously a guy that I went through a lot when I played with him, and it was good to hear from him again.”
Marchand certainly took the advice to heart, and he showed it with his play in Game 1.
Marchand played 22:17, scoring the game-winner, adding an assist and putting three shots on net while even blocking three in the defensive end. It was a much more complete effort for Marchand, something that Julien has been searching high and low for out of Marchand.
“I thought Brad, personally, that was one of his better games so far in the playoffs,” Julien said. “He skated well, made some great plays, took pucks to the net and that’s the Brad Marchand we know. It was nice to see him really bring his A-game to the table tonight.”