In the long and storied history of the Boston Bruins, a player from their team has won the Hart Trophy (MVP award) 12 separate times. Interestingly enough, four of the five were repeat winners led by legendary defensemen Eddie Shore (four) and Bobby Orr (three) then centers Phil Esposito (two) and Bill Cowley (two) along with Milt Schmidt.
This current edition of the Bruins (37-26-6) still have 13 games left in this regular season, but left wing Brad Marchand (35 goals, 39 assists, plus-19) has built a strong very case for himself. He could become their first Hart Trophy winner since Esposito last did it in 1973-74 — so it’s been awhile.
After watching Marchand completely take over with a third period hat trick (the second of his NHL career) in Monday’s 6-3 comeback victory in Vancouver (28-32-9), it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than the fact that he has become one of the NHL’s truly elite players. Need further proof? He is tied with Penguins icon Sidney Crosby for the lead in goals and one point behind Edmonton’s young superstar Connor McDavid (75) for the most points in the league.
This is more than simply a good player getting hot at the right time. In fact, since the start of last season, Marchand is tied for third in the NHL for goals (72) with St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko, trailing only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (77) and Chicago’s Patrick Kane (76). That’s rarified air for any player, but especially a Bruin, a team not typically known for its offensive firepower. Finally, since Jan. 1, Marchand leads the NHL in points (39).
You’ll remember that Marchand scored two goals in Boston’s victorious Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals at Rogers Arena, so naturally he’s quite fond of that place. “Lots of great memories in this building,” he said. “So it is fun to just come in here and reminisce and when you have a night like that, it just adds to those memories.”
His teammates can see first-hand how vital Marchand has been all season, particularly when they weren’t playing like this. “When we need somebody to pick us up, he’s often the guy that takes over the game and makes a big play and today was a great example, obviously,” noted goaltender Tuukka Rask (26 saves) about Marchand.
Individual awards are nice and all but it goes without saying that Marchand and his teammates would much prefer a spot in the postseason. They are 11-3-0 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy thus far; that move couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for a club in desperate need of a boost. They had to beat the Canucks since the next three games on this lengthy road trip in Canada promise to be harder: at Calgary (39-26-4) on Wednesday (9, NESN) who have tied a franchise-record with 10 straight wins; at Edmonton (35-24-9) on Thursday (9, NESN) who look poised to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade; and at Toronto (31-22-14) on Monday who are Boston’s biggest threat for the third seed in the Atlantic Division.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate