Bruins Training Camp Notebook: After playing at ‘80%’ for years, a revitalized Brad Marchand is ready for a clean slate

(photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)

The Boston Bruins opened their abbreviated 2021 training camp on Monday morning, with Bruce Cassidy and his staff holding a pair of practices at Warrior Ice Arena to kick off the B's 56-game campaign. Here are some notes from a very busy day in Brighton. 

Marchand ready to be back at 100%

Over the previous two seasons, Brad Marchand has continued to elevate his stock as one of the premier left wingers in the game today — recording 187 points over his last 149 games. During the 2018-19 campaign, Marchand became the first Bruin to eclipse the 100-point scoring mark in a single season since Joe Thornton in 2002-03, standing as just the 10th player in franchise history to reach the lofty scoring total.

It's all awfully impressive for a player that started his NHL career as a fourth-line grinder and pest — especially considering the fact that the 32-year-old skater acknowledged on Monday that he regularly racked up those points and tortured opposing defenses while being saddled with multiple nagging injuries.

For as much as hockey players pride themselves on gritting through the bumps and bruises sustained over the course of a grueling season, it quickly became apparent to Marchand that recurring ailments weren't resolving themselves in due time — even with a full offseason of rest prescribed.

"Two and a half years, it's been bugging me," Marchand said Monday of nagging injuries. "It's affected not only my on-ice, but my off-ice training, I haven't been able to sprint or run in years. Initially, it was just my left side, my left groin, my left ab, that was bugging me. And then this past season, it was both sides. So it would go from, one day, it could be all four would be sore, or it'd just be my left side, and then that'd feel better, than my right side would act up. And it got to the point where I was only able to play like 80%. I mean, I couldn't take a full stride. A lot of times that I was taking days off. I think in the playoffs, I barely practiced because I needed every day off to recover because I was in a lot of pain, and it bugged me every single day."

Even though his pain and limitations didn't translate into a drop of production out on the ice, Marchand opted to bite the bullet this offseason and go under the knife to correct these issues moving forward — undergoing sports hernia surgery back in September. 

An extended offseason that dragged into January means that there stands a chance that Marchand's four-month recovery timeline won't actually mean that he'll miss games to open the 2021 season — as he skated in his usual spot to Patrice Bergeron's left during Monday's practice, albeit in a red, non-contact sweater.

But even if this 2021 season followed a somewhat normal league calendar and commenced months prior, Marchand said that the plan was always to undergo the procedure during this offseason.

"It was a long time coming. ... Now after going through it, I can't believe I waited two years to do it," Marchand said. "I was hoping it was going to go away. The last thing any player wants to do is to have a surgery that's gonna take four months to recover. But seeing the difference in how I feel on the ice, and what was holding me back, it's night and day. So I'm anxious to be 100 percent and to get out there and play some games again." 

Given that David Pastrnak — who underwent both hip and labrum surgeries back in September — is expected to be on the shelf for at least a few weeks to open the season, Boston is going to need all of the help it can get to keep this offense humming and account for a defense that might be going through its fair share of growing pains in January.

"I thought he was pretty good for us at 80%. ... I know that some guys in the playoffs who were not 100% and he was one of them," Bruce Cassidy said of Marchand.

"There's reasons why they had surgery. So hopefully he does get a lot closer to 100%, because every player is obviously more effective when they're their full go."

Miller returns to Warrior ice 

As the heir apparent to assume the captaincy of the Bruins, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise that Patrice Bergeron closed out the first on-ice session of the Bruins' 2021 season by leading a post-practice stretch.

But the pivot had some company at center ice, opting to have Kevan Miller join him to close out Boston's Group A skate at Warrior Ice Arena. It might appear as just a simple gesture for a veteran blueliner, but given how unlikely it seemed just a few months back that Miller would even be back on the skates and practicing with an NHL club, Monday's camp session served as a major achievement for a defenseman whose career seemed to be stuck at a crossroads for over a year.