Seventh Player Marchand stands out
It was such a formality that Brad Marchand would win NESN’s Seventh Player Award that the rookie forward didn’t even bother taking a seat on the bench for yesterday’s pregame announcement. Instead, Marchand was the only Bruin to stand on the ice. It made his skate to the trophy that much easier.
“I think it’s very deserving,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “That’s certainly not to take away from some of the other guys that have made tremendous steps as well. But he’s one of those guys that obviously surpassed maybe a lot of our expectations.’’
The award, presented annually to the player who exceeds expectations and goes above and beyond the call of duty, could have had several winners.
Adam McQuaid turned himself into a bona fide NHL defenseman. Tim Thomas, who had a subpar 2009-10 season, bounced back and is now the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. Gregory Campbell has been a gritty, all-purpose forward.
But the mouthy Marchand has claimed the award as his own ever since he was promoted to the second line.
Marchand made his initial mark on the fourth line with Campbell and Shawn Thornton. But when the coaching staff wanted some more pop alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, Marchand was the first candidate.
“He’s been a real good player for us, starting off on the fourth line and really making that line probably one of the best fourth lines we’ve had here for a long, long time,’’ Julien said. “It was probably one of the best fourth lines in the league.
“He graduated with Bergy and Rex. Those guys, as much he’s benefited from them, they’ve benefited from him as well. They know that.
“He’s such a good skater and he plays hard every night. I think it’s going to be exciting to see him jump into the playoffs just by the way he is. He’s going to be pumped for that.’’
Back in Boston Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, shipped to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik Feb. 18, played against their former teammates yesterday for the first time.
Since the trade, Wheeler has been the best performer of the bunch. Wheeler, who skated on the right side yesterday alongside Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, has five goals and eight assists in 19 games with Atlanta.
“It brought back a lot of good memories,’’ Wheeler said. “I have a lot of good friends on that team. I will certainly be rooting for them.’’
Stuart has one goal as a Thrasher. The defensive defenseman signed a three-year, $5.1 million extension Feb. 28. In yesterday’s second period, Stuart launched into Tomas Kaberle and buried his right shoulder into the ex-Leaf’s sternum. The hit drew some attention from Nathan Horton, who took some pokes at Stuart.
Stuart was credited with one shot, two hits, and four blocked shots in 20:35 of ice time. It was the most he’s played as a Thrasher. On Oct. 30, Stuart logged 21:17 of ice time as a Bruin against Ottawa.
“To play against him is not easy because he plays hard,’’ Julien said of Stuart. “It’s not fun to go in the corner. It’s not fun to go around the net with him. That’s been his strength.’’
Thornton sits again Thornton didn’t play for the second straight game. He continues to heal from the cut on his forehead, but hasn’t been cleared to return. Julien is hopeful Thornton will be given the green light for tomorrow’s game against the Rangers . . . Steven Kampfer and McQuaid were the healthy scratches . . . Atlanta was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. “It is pretty devastating,’’ said coach Craig Ramsay. “Especially to lose a game that we played a pretty good game in. Played a great third period. We had a good solid effort and we lose on a penalty shot in the third period.’’
Thrasher down The Thrashers lost Tobias Enstrom to an upper-body injury in the first. The slick defenseman played only 2:57 over five shifts . . . Bergeron won 15 of 19 faceoffs, and has won 56.4 percent of his draws this season . . . Johnny Boychuk was back after getting a breather Thursday.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.