By Larry Wigge
It was almost like lightning striking the arena. Everything stopped. Less than half a minute had passed. The crowd was just settling in.
The puck was bouncing and Sidney Crosby couldn't handle it at his own blue line. It popped into the air. That Little Ball of Hate Brad Marchand stepped in and control the puck for a split-second with his glove. Then, he set it down and was off ... on a breakaway.
He said he could feel a little tugging as he went to shoot -- from Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen. But ... he shot nonetheless just missing Tomas Vokoun's glove hand for a 1-0 lead in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"A bit of a lucky play. I think the puck kind of bounced on Sid there and went up in the air," said Marchand. "I just came through and knocked it down. ..."
Marchand said he couldn't even hear the Consol Energy Center crowd booing him as he sped down the ice.
"You don't hear that stuff," Marchand continued. "You're just so focused on what's happening."
When things had settled down, the Bruins were already up 3-0. But, after Brandon Sutter scored for Pittsburgh with 33.2 seconds remaining in the first period ... Marchand struck once again 8.1 seconds left on a high rising slap shot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury over his glove.
The 5-9, 183-pound from Halifax, N.S., struck for a team-leading 18 goals and 18 assists in 45 game (his career high is actually 28 goals in 2011-12, but that came in 76 games). He's been even better in the playoffs -- striking four goals and seven assists in 14 games. He is one of just 11 players in NHL history to have scored 2-or-more goals in a Stanley Cup Final game 7.
Marchand set a record for playoff goals by a Boston rookie and tied Jeremy Roenick for the second-most in NHL history, 11, during the Cup run. They're three shy of Dino Ciccarelli, who scored 14 goals for the Minnesota North Stars in 1981.
Skating, shooting, stickhandling, checking, signing ... even at 11 he wanted to be the whole package.
But ... try as he might ... he had to first harness his temper.
A funny thing happened as the Bruins were visiting the White House after they won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Barack Obama asked Marchand, "What's up with that nickname, man?"
"The play doesn't end with the whistle," Marchand replied, with a toothy smile.
Jeff Marchand, Brad's father, had been a bigger ball of hate during his playing career at Halifax or for the Bridgewater Lumberjacks. He was a regular in the principal's office in middle school in suburban Halifax, visits made more awkward because his mother, Lynn, taught there.
"My mom would hear my name on the P.A., 'Brad Marchand, report to the principal's office,' and you could hear the clatter of her high heels coming down the hallway a mile away," he recalls.
Said coach Claude Julien, "He's a good brat when he stays within the rules and disrupts the other team. ... He's a bad brat when he takes bad penalties and hurts our team."
Marchand takes pride in irritating the other side.
"Being an agitator just comes out of me at times," Marchand replied. "I don't even mean to do it. It's just how I am. It's reactionary. It's tough to get away from it at times. Because the refs are on me and watching me, I can't really do anything even if there have been times when guys come at me.
"The kind of player I want to be is strong defensively and be accountable. I want the coach to know he can count on me to be put into the game at any time. I want to be physical. Basically, I want the ability to play on any line up and down the lineup. I want to be counted on for energy, to be physical and to score goals is the role I want to play. I just want to be able to do all that."
When you're a little guy and you're battling guys in front who are 6-foot-3. It's very tough.
"They're trying to push you out of the way," Marchand said. "You just have to try and sneak your way in and out of there. You watch guys like Daniel Briere of the Flyers who is one of the best scorers in the league. Pretty much all of his goals are right around in front of the net. That's where most of the goals are scored in the NHL and that's where you have to be."
If you want to know where Brad Marchand gets his competitive attitude, you only have to go to the family tree.
Raymond Marchand, Brad's grandfather, was a couple of inches smaller than the Bruins forward, but that never kept him from making his presence felt, either on the hockey rink or in the boxing ring.
"He was only 5-foot-7, but he was tough as nails. It didn't matter how big a person was, if you challenged him, you were going down."
The Bruins found Marchand, thanks to Don Matheson, who died in December 2008, was Boston's Canadian Maritimes amateur scout. He was also Moncton's director of recruiting, where Brad was playing at the time. During weekly conference calls, Matheson reminded Scott Bradley, then the Bruins director of amateur scouting, that Marchand was a can't-miss player.
Early in 2006, Bradley traveled to Halifax to interview Marchand.
"When Donnie and I met him, I could see he had something," said Bradley, who is now director of player personnel. "It was in the way he conducted himself in the interview. His on-ice play. All that stuff.
"He never quit. I'd watch him in the playoffs. He never quit. He'd go down swinging. That’s a quality you can’t teach."
At the draft, under the watch of Bradley and interim general manager Jeff Gorton (Peter Chiarelli had been hired but was still under Ottawa’s control), the Bruins executed a home run trade. On June 24, 2006, they swapped their fourth- and fifth-round picks to the New York Islanders for the 71st overall selection, which they used to nab Marchand.
It was almost a robbery that the Bruins were able to get Marchand with the 71st pick in 2006.
His first assignment was Providence of the American Hockey League.
"He's a determined son of a gun, that kid," said Rob Murray, Marchand's coach in Providence. "If you're an opponent, you hate him. But for me, him, and our organization, he just won't be denied."
Patrice Bergeron is a Brad Marchand fan.
"He seems to have a knack to come up with some timely goals or hits or he just generates energy and chances with his skating," Bergeron said. "He hustles and gives his all on every shift."
Thinking back to his mom's being called to the principal's office. Marchand had a tattoo on the right side of his torso after the Bruins won the Cup.
"Mine originally was misspelled," he said. "Instead of saying Stanley Cup Champions, it said Stanley Cup Champians. I don't even know how that happened..."
The boys were having a little fun, drinking and ...
"After I got it, I came in the room and someone was like it says champians ... with an a. So I went back and the tattoo guy fixed it after that. It's fixed now. It's Stanley. They obviously knew how to spell Stanley Cup. The only thing that was wrong with it was an a and he turned it into an o for champions."
Brad Marchand ... one in a million ... someone you will never forget.