Brad Marchand’s assists as impressive as David Pastrnak’s goals

Matt Kalman
February 20, 2020 - 12:14 am

David Pastrnak is a goal-scoring machine, and he proved that again Wednesday with the overtime goal that beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in the first game of the Bruins’ three-game trip to Western Canada.

Pastrnak went to bed Wednesday tied for the NHL lead in goals with Auston Matthews with 43. The Rocket Richard Trophy race is going to be a barnburner through mid-April.

But there’s another Bruins player challenging for the league lead in an offensive department that doesn’t come with a trophy (although there should be one named for Wayne Gretzky or another legend).

Once again Brad Marchand showed off his passing prowess, this time setting up Patrice Bergeron’s goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first period.

It wasn’t the fanciest assist of Marchand’s season (he’s filled a highlight reel with his spins, dekes and passes against the grain this season), but it was typical of his approach to playing the past couple seasons as he’s become more of a facilitator on the Bruins’ top line.

“For sure. I rarely shoot,” Marchand said last weekend. “You know before Pasta kind of got on the line, that’s kind of what I looked to do. Whenever I got inside the blue line I was kind of the shooter. And you know it worked, but with Pasta on the line and Bergy and kind of some of the tendencies we’ve created in our game, they’re the shooters and I’m the passer and I’m fine with that. It’s obviously worked and a lot of our plays are geared toward that. Obviously there’s a time and place for shooting and passing and it’s about trying to read that, but they’re both very good putting themselves in position almost every play to get a shot off. … So I’m going to give it to them because they put it in the net.”

Marchand averaged a career-high 3.25 shots on net in the 2015-16 season. Since then he hasn’t exceeded 2.92 shots per game, and his 2.65 shots per game this season is his lowest average since he averaged 2.34 in 2014-15.

He now has 52 assists and trails just Washington’s John Carlson (55) and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (61) for the top spot in the NHL. Draisaitl was kept off the score sheet by the Bruins on Wednesday despite 29:22 of ice time. With Connor McDavid, James Neal and Zack Kassian out of the Oilers’ lineup, he obviously lacks the finishers necessary to keep racking up assists and he might have to start shooting more.

That could allow Marchand, who’s fourth in the NHL in assists behind McDavid, Draisaitl and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov if you start counting at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, an opening to make a run at the assist title while Pastrnak chases down the Richard. Marchand is also within range of his second straight 100-point season, needing just 25 points in the last 21 games to get there.

Marchand’s unlikely to stop dishing, so if Pastrnak (and Bergeron) continue to finish, one could envision him surpassing his career-high of 64 assists set last season. And he could also make it a clean sweep of the goal and assist categories for the Bruins, even if Draisaitl is likely to hang on to the Art Ross, combining his world-class goal scoring with his elite playmaking.

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