Hart Trophy Contenders
As of now it appears that Nikita Kucherov, Taylor Hall, and Nathan Mackinnon are the frontrunners for this year’s Hart Trophy. Kucherov leads the league with 88 points and has dominated all season. Hall and Mackinnon have also had career years, yet both teams remain on the playoff bubble. Many fans and analysts have actually used this to strengthen the argument for both of them. They say that their individual production is essentially the only reason New Jersey and Colorado are in contention. Heading into the season neither team had high expectations, so this is a valid point. But can’t the same logic be applied to Brad Marchand and the Bruins? If we’re talking about one player stepping up his game and allowing his team to defy expectations, Marchand absolutely needs to be in the conversation.
By the Numbers
They made the playoffs last year, but the Bruins have been on the outside-looking-in for a while now in terms of being a cup contender. Prior to the season, the consensus was that the Bruins would be a bubble team come the latter part of the season. One set of preseason rankings from www.sportingnews.ca even had the B’s listed as the 20th best team in the league, falling behind Montreal, Ottawa, and Carolina.
But with Marchand continuing his dominance that we saw last season this prediction has become far from accurate. He leads the team with 67 points despite having played in 13 less games than the second leading scorer, David Pastrnak. This averages out to 1.29 points per game, good for fourth in the league and only 0.05 points per game behind Nathan Mackinnon, the current leader. This is something that the Bruins haven’t seen in a while. If Marchand can keep this pace up, he’ll have the most points per game by a Bruin in a single season since Joe Thornton back in 2002-03. Thornton managed to put up 101 points through 77 games that year, and even those numbers narrowly beat Marchand’s current points per game at 1.31.
We all know what Marchand’s reputation is outside of Boston- he’s pretty much hated unanimously. Fans, players, coaches, analysts- you name it, they all can’t stand him. He’s been suspended six times throughout his career and hasn’t made too many friends around the league. He’s always straddled the line between “chippy” and down-right unacceptable. But the effect that it has on the team is overblown.
Marchand for MVP
So far this season Marchand has 53 PIMs in 53 games. This doesn’t even crack the NHL’s top 50 and averages out to just one minor penalty every other game. For some teams this would cause problems, but the Bruins penalty kill is more than capable of weathering the storm. They’ve managed to kill off 82.4% of penalties this season, good for 10th in the league. We also can’t look past how this time in the box relates to his style of play. Unlike most scorers he plays his best hockey while trying to get under the opposing teams skin. Scoring and being a pest are a package deal, and he’s equally talented in both categories. With the amount that he throws the other team off their game, I’ll take a minor penalty every other night.
Even despite all this, it remains unlikely that Marchand will take home the Hart Trophy. He’s missed too much time with suspensions and his reputation has taken a bigger hit than ever. Keep in mind that the Hart trophy is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Most of them probably hate him too. But his production when in the lineup has been just as good as anyone in the NHL, and it shows with his 1.29 points per game. He’s part of the best line in hockey and has given Bruins fans scoring that we haven’t seen in 15 years. It’ll be interesting to see if Marchand can pad his stats down the stretch and become more of a solidified Hart Trophy candidate.