Emerging from a alarming slog at the end of the regular season and needing to shake some mounting playoff demons, Brad Marchand had little time to prove himself. If he couldn't start playing like the game-changer he's been in the regular season when the Bruins took the ice for Game 1 against the Maple Leafs, the proverbial monkey on his back would only get heavier and smellier.
For one night, anyway, the monkey has been firmly slapped away.
We'll see how it goes the rest of this opening round series, especially in Toronto. But Marchand was an absolute force on Thursday night, along with his linemates. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak controlled the majority of the action whenever they were on the ice, consistently moving the puck up ice and getting behind the Leafs' leaky defense to create scoring chances.
Bergeron was his usual dependable self and Pastrnak is quietly emerging as a playoff performer, but the story here is Marchand. It was important for Marchand not to just produce, but to show the confidence he's shown with the puck on his stick for most of the first 82 games of the season.
Marchand finished with a goal and an assist, and he sure did look confident. For a while, it looked like he and Bergeron were playing pond hockey out there. But as he described to reporters after the game, Marchand was just enjoying himself.
"Yeah playoffs is a lot more fun," said Marchand. "This is what we play all year for, it’s a long grueling season but once you get here every game means so much and again the fans are incredible, it’s what we live to play for is this opportunity so it’s just fun to be here."
Perhaps this was all you need to see to know how much Marchand was enjoying himself:
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 13, 2018
It's important not to get carried away about a single game, but the single game was about as impressive as it gets for the Bruins' top line. They surely looked far better than they did in their final five games of the regular season, when the Bruins went 1-3-1.
Still, Marchand knows that he and the B's still have a long way to go.
"It’s a good start but it doesn’t mean much," said Marchand. "Again, we got to let it go, can’t get stuck on it and on to the next one."
If the next one is as good as the first, the Bruins will have a good chance to put themselves in firm control of this series.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].