Brad Marchand isn’t putting too much stock into last year’s seven-game triumph over the Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Sure, both rosters feature quite the returning cast, but youngsters like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy are another year older — while newcomers like John Tavares, Jake Muzzin, Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner could be X-factors in this first-round rematch.
Admittedly, Marchand has also changed quite a bit over the past year — with the winger becoming just the 10th player in franchise history to reach triple digits in scoring with 100 points accrued in 2018-19.
Now, Marchand’s production on offense has been a rising trend for the skilled winger over the last couple of seasons — with the 30-year-old averaging a little over 36 goals in each of the past four seasons.
No, the change Marchand is referring to lies in his overall conduct on the ice, especially once play has stopped. Never one to turn down a chance to push some buttons, Marchand was a pest throughout last year’s series against Toronto — drawing plenty of headlines for his repeated, uh, run-ins with Leo Komarov.
Following a 2017-18 campaign in which Marchand was fined twice, suspended five games for elbowing now-teammate Marcus Johansson and knocked for licking both Komarov and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan — the contrite veteran acknowledged it was time to clean up some areas of his game.
"That's kind of been something I've wanted to work on for the last few years," Marchand said back on May 9. "Just work more on that role. I've got to figure some s--- out before that's really going to happen to get to the next level where (Patrice Bergeron) (Zdeno Chara), (David Krejci) and (David Backes) are. I've got to get rid of that stuff. The next few years, I think my biggest thing is turning around more of the character side of things than my game."
While Marchand elevated his game this season from a scoring perspective, he also avoided any fines or other run-ins with the league office — compiling just 30 total penalty minutes from Nov. 17 through the end of the regular season.
“I think it’s great, because last year he stood up and said he was going to do that and I'm sure he’s had his doubters,” Bruce Cassidy said. “You can make an argument that he’s still been in hot water a few times, but he’s kept his nose clean, true to his words. I don’t think he’s even been close to anything that you’d say, Well, what’s going on? He’s going to go over the edge. He’s had games where he’s been upset, but every player goes through that. He’s got right back on the rails and been a real good player for us. He backed it up. So now, in the playoffs now, hopefully, Toronto doesn’t have some gameplan to get him off.
"I can’t imagine he would go down that road anyway. I think he understands how valuable he is to the team and how he’s been able to keep it clean for six, seven months.
While the onus to mellow out some aspects of Marchand’s on-ice persona fell on him and his own efforts to present himself as more of a leader in the B’s locker room — he added on Wednesday that it’s a logical career decision, given how the nature of the NHL has shifted over the last couple of seasons.