(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center that provides free help to kids at underserved schools. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Asmae.)
Not being one to get into saying, “I told you so,” (lol) but boy it turns out that Brad Marchand is having another whopper of a season and he’s really good and I’ve been saying it for years.
The thing with saying, “Brad Marchand is good,” though, is that you can point to any number of stats you want to validate it, but he just has a large number of people who don’t like him and any time you praise him, they fall back to their one dumb defense that will always kinda-work:
“But only because he plays with Bergeron!”
Let’s get that out of the way right now, then: Patrice Bergeron is one of the best players alive. I long ago stopped trying to rank which centers were the best in the league in my head, but suffice it to say that Bergeron is one of the five best alive. Don’t think there’d be too many people to put up an argument on that front.
But the thing that arises when evaluating the wingers of elite centers is that most elite centers see their wingers change on a regular basis. For example, Sidney Crosby has played at least 100 minutes with Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz, Patric Hornqvist, Pascal Dupuis, and David Perron this season. Kunitz is his most regular running buddy (poor Sid!) but most other guys bounce off and on his line on a regular basis. You can do this for almost any elite center: Jonathan Toews has played the vast majority of his time in recent years with Marian Hossa, but also Patrick Kane, Artemi Panari, Andew Shaw, Tuevo Teravainen, Andrew Ladd, and even Ryan Garbutt. In all kinds of configurations.
One guy you can’t do that with is Bergeron. He’s had just 187 minutes at 5-on-5 all year without Brad Marchand (pretty much all of them because Marchand was either suspended or injured), and more than 764.5 with him. Their results are through the roof: An expected goals-for share of 55.4 percent, and the Bruins carry less than 46.1 percent when they’re off the ice. Together, they have a corsi-for of 55.4 percent as well, and the Bruins are likewise a mile below that number when they go for a rest.
So much of that has to do with Marchand’s skill it’s not funny, but those who decided four or five years ago he was trash and haven’t paid any attention to the Bruins since then aren’t going to be convinced by WOWYs alone.
Here, then is the really crazy number: This season, when Brad Marchand has been away from Bergeron and some stranger has been on his wing, Bergeron has looked… ordinary.
Bergeron without Marchand (187 minutes at 5v5)
Yo it’s almost like…………. Brad Marchand is good? I dunno folks, that’s just how it looks to me, your nice friend. He’s at 34 goals and 54 points in 68 games this season. How anyone still looks at that and thinks “passenger” is so far beyond me that I’d have to become a Ranger fan to understand it (haha).
At this point he’s arguably the second-best player on the Bruins (behind only Bergeron) and no lower than fourth (if you want to be really generous and include both Loui Eriksson and Tuukka Rask). I said I didn’t really rank centers any more, but I also can’t name four left wings better than Marchand. In no particular order: Jamie Benn, Taylor Hall, Alex Ovechkin, and ___________? Can’t come up with one.
This was the case before he pushed 40 goals for the season, of course, but that certainly doesn’t hurt the candidacy.
To me, Brad Marchand will always be a champian.
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