NESN’s Seventh Player Award is an annual award presented “to the Bruin who went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the 2010-11 season.”
This year’s winner, Brad Marchand, has 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points in his 72 games played. After the game, a humbled Marchand discussed his role and responsibilities and if he actually made the team last fall. “Yeah, well it was a question mark whether I was going to be on the team this year. It’s a honor to win that award. It’s special. Well I think I was expected to be defensively responsible and bring energy into the game. Now I think I still have to do the exact same thing, but maybe bring a little more offense.”
Marchand was originally drafted by the Bruins in the third round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and the Bruins are 17-1-2 this season when he scores.
Past recipients that are currently with the team include Tuukka Rask (2010), David Krejci (2009) and Milan Lucic (2008).
Today the Bruins welcomed the Atlanta Thrashers and old friends Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler back to the Garden. Both players received good ovations from the Garden faithful when they were shown on the jumbotron. Having spoken to Wheeler a few times here in Boston since his rookie year, it was good to see him in his usual ‘happy go lucky’ mood in the Thrasher locker room after the game. Said Wheeler, “I knew it was going to be a fun atmosphere and a fun game. Would have loved to have come in here and beat these guys but they are a good team and they have a real shot this year.”
The B’s started pretty quickly scoring four and a half minutes into the contest when Mark Recchi tapped in what was basically an empty netter. After Zdeno Chara dumped the puck, Patrice Bergeron made a great play along the wall and found Marchand. Then Marchand found Recchi for an easy tap in, 1-0 Bruins.
The lead was short lived as Dustin Byfuglien’s point shot five seconds into a Thrasher power play beat Rask. Tuukka got a piece of it but the puck hopped off his stick, off his back and into the net. Evander Kane’s goal early in the second period gave the Thrashers their only lead of the day. It was short lived when Daniel Paille scored an unassisted short handed goal five minutes later.
The game stayed tied until there were seven and a half minutes left in the game. Michael Ryder, who has been a healthy scratch lately, intercepted a Zach Bogosian pass at center ice and broke in on Ondrej Pavelec only to be taken down by Johnny Oduya. Rightfully so, a penalty shot was called as Ryder never got off a shot on the breakaway. On the penalty shot, Ryder got Pavelec moving side to side when the time was right, he went top shelf over the shoulder.
Tuukka Rask played well today. I thought early on, he was fighting the puck. The first Thrasher goal was evident of this. He made the save but the puck bounced off his stick over his back and into the net. As the game progressed, he got better and took control of the game as the Thrashers shots went from 4 in the firast period to 11 in the second to 15 to close out the game. Rask said, “…I got more shots as the game went on. We got three shots in the first period, take a penalty and score in your own net. So it’s not the best start you can imagine. But we bounced back and got the win.”
Most importantly, the Bruins clnched the Northeast Division and home ice for at least the first round today. They are still chasing the Capitals and Flyers for a higher seeding come playoff time but the worst they will sit is that third position. Brad Marchand summed it up best, “We didn’t come into this season wanting to win this division. We have a goal, and that’s to win the Stanley Cup. So it’s a stepping stone, and it’s a good accomplishment for a great team. But there’s a long way to go before we accomplish our goal. It’s special, but at the same time we’re a long ways away.”
Finally, we officially welcomed Shane Hnidy back to the room today. I thought losing him last year was a bigger loss than most people thought. Fact is, he’s a third pair defenseman but he’s a solid, well liked guy in the room and does the little things that winning teams need done. I really think the B’s missed him and Aaron Ward in the room last year. Veterans like this may have helped in the Philly series last year and hopefully (as a Bruin fan) lead the squad to the a minimum of the Conference Finals this year. After two years of losing in the semi-finals, it’s time for the team to jump to the next round.
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Written by Jim Mulligan