This year more than ever, the race for the Hart Trophy is wide open. All week, the NHL writing staff at Full Press Coverage will Make the Case for each of the top contenders. First up: Brad Marchand.
Scrappy. Dirty. Little ball of hate. There are a lot of words and phrases that describe Bruins forward, Brad Marchand. However, the most accurate description of the nine-year veteran—NHL superstar.
Marchand, in his second season, scored 20 goals for the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in 2011. However, it wasn’t until the 2015-16 season that he went from pretty good, scrappy player to legitimate NHL superstar. That season, he tallied 37 goals in 77 games. The following year (last season) he notched 39 goals to set a new career high and set another career high in points with 85.
Under new coach Bruce Cassidy, Marchand has continued to excel. With four games remaining, Marchand sits at 34 goals and 84 points in just 63 games. One wonders what his line would look like if he didn’t miss as many games as he did. Only once since 2011 has Marchand played fewer than 76 games and that came in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13.
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His goal and assist totals aren’t of the likes of Nathan MacKinnon or Connor McDavid. Some of that is due to the games he missed. However, he does share the lead in points per game with MacKinnon with a nice 1.33 mark. In addition, he is second to only MacKinnon in goals created per game. He is third in the league in plus/minus with a +33. However, the most impressive stat may very well be is his eight game-winning goals. Six of which were in overtime.
By themselves, the numbers and clutch play should be enough to put him in the conversation. The circumstances in which he did it should propel him to the top.
Taking into account the fact that Marchand has played a mere 63 games this season, his volume stats will not compare to his closest competitors. Marchand missed a number of games to injury and several for a self-inflicted suspension. However, injuries did not stop with Marchand.
For the better part of the last few months, the Bruins have been without, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, Rick Nash, and David Backes. Among others. Despite the injury bug, the Bruins persevered. In fact, they thrived and have leapfrogged the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the East. Now, with a game in hand, the Bruins control their own destiny for the top spot. Brad Marchand deserves much of the credit for that success.
Since the turn of the calendar year, Marchand has 52 points in 34 games. Of his 19 goals in that span, six of them were game-winning goals, including several in overtime. In that time, the Bruins record was 28-7-5 (24-5-5 with Marchand in the lineup).
Earlier in the year, it looked as though the Lightning may run away with the East’s best record. Now, it’s the Bruins in the driver’s seat for the top spot. There is even an outside chance they surpass the Predators for the best record in the league if they falter during the final week.
After one final regular season showdown with the Lightning on Tuesday, the Bruins have three games remaining against teams currently on the outside looking in. With much still left to play for, Marchand could add to his already impressive numbers. Further strengthening his case for the Hart Trophy.
Marchands play, especially in the second half, has helped the Bruins more than survive the rash of injuries they have suffered. Now, as players begin to return, the Bruins look to be gearing up for a long playoff run. Having home ice throughout will help. Having what should be the league’s most valuable player should help more.
Brad Marchand is your 2018 Hart Trophy winner.