By Larry Wigge
Brad Marchand took a deep breath before consideration the situation he had been put in. He was thinking of a fast move also a slow one.
A man of contradiction.
The 5-9, 183 pound forward was all alone at center ice. Alone. No Boston Bruin had ever scored on a penalty shot in overtime.
The Halifax, Nova Scotia was given the free shot after being grabbed by Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen while skating in alone 2:32 into overtime February 6. The referee whistled. Down the ice, the tiny Marchand cleanly beat goaltender Robin Lehner with a roofed backhander that finished off a 2-1 victory.
Marchand is fearless and confident as he scored his ninth goal in 10 games.
"It's kind of a mental state," Marchand explaine, still shaking his head. "When things are going well and the bounces are going your way, you feel like you can try those things.
"When they're not, then you don't feel the same comfort level to do it."
Said Bruins coach Claude Julien, "He's been a great player for us, coming up big in those situations.
"He’s, in my mind, one of the best players, if not the best, at being on those pucks in the offensive zone and battling hard to take the puck away from. He's slippery, he's shifty."
Marchand, who has never scored more than 28 goals in a season in his six NHL seasons, is now on pace to flirt with 40.
His shot, his speed and his nose for the net would be going to waste if he didn’t have the confidence. Whether he's crashing the crease or blowing past four or five defenders, Marchand is being fueled by self-belief.
Some of that confidence could be traced back to this summer, when he met this former UFC fighter during workouts at his gym.
"He said something that stuck with me -- that the ceiling is what you make it. If you believe that you can hit a certain point then that's what you're going to hit," said Marchand. "If you believe there's no ceiling then you can only improve. So that's what I've been trying to do. Hopefully it will continue."
That Little Ball of Hate is one of just 11 players in NHL history to have scored 2-or-more goals in a Stanley Cup Final game 7. That came in the Bruins Stanley Cup clinching victory over Vancouver in 2011.
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.
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 Cup.
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.
"He's a good brat when he stays within the rules and disrupts the other team," said Julien. "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 tough.
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 5-7, 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. "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, 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.
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.