Brad Marchand's journey to 1,000 NHL games is more impressive than most


Brad Marchand’s journey to 1,000 NHL games is more impressive than most originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

An NHL player reaching the 1,000 games played milestone is worthy of special recognition by itself. What makes Brad Marchand hitting this historic mark extra special is the path he took to get there and the Hall of Fame-caliber player he’s become along the way.

Marchand will skate in his 1,000th game Tuesday night when his Boston Bruins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.

The B’s are no stranger to this accomplishment. Eight players have played 1,000 or more games for the franchise. Patrice Bergeron played in his 1,000th game back in 2019. David Krejci skated in his 1,000th game last season.

Boston’s four major professional sports teams have been blessed with many great players over the last 24 years, and Marchand is easily among the most underappreciated of the bunch.

“It’s special,” Marchand told reporters after Monday’s practice when asked about reaching the 1,000 games milestone. “I look at it in so many different ways. When you look back as a kid coming up and just trying to make the league, it’s hard to imagine playing 1,000 games, especially for one team. You look at the players, the guys I grew up watching who played 1,000 games — I was even looking the other day at guys who I would have expected to play 1,000 games that didn’t due to injuries or whatever. It is pretty incredible.”

Of the eight players in team history to play 1,000 games, Marchand’s journey was probably the most unlikely. If you said in 2009-10 that Marchand would one day have a strong Hall of Fame case as an elite offensive and defensive player who put up stellar playoff numbers for more than a decade, people would have called you insane.

Marchand played 113 AHL games in Providence and made his NHL debut in 2009-10. He established himself as someone who would agitate the heck out of opponents, play with a physical edge and bring a little tenacity to the ice. But despite the energy he brought, he didn’t score a goal and picked up only one assist in his 20 games in Boston that season.

The initial expectations were that Marchand could be an effective bottom-six player. Not many players evolve from a bottom-six grinder nicknamed the “Little Ball of Hate” to the sport‘s best all-around left wing, but that is the path Marchand took over the next 14 years.

One of the first glimpses of his top-six potential came during the 2010-11 campaign. He hit the 20-goal mark for the first time, and then carried that success into 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and particularly during the Stanley Cup Final versus the Vancouver Canucks.

Marchand tallied 19 points, including a then-rookie record 11 goals, in 25 postseason games. He scored five goals over the final five games of the Cup Final. The Bruins won four of them, including Game 7 in Vancouver, to win their first championship since 1972. Marchand scored twice in the deciding game, including Boston’s second goal, which really deflated the Canucks and their fans. He assisted on Bergeron’s opening goal, too.

Beginning with the 2011-12 season, Marchand steadily climbed up the ranks of the best left wings in the sport. Nobody expected Marchand to be one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league. He is in his 14th full season with the Bruins, and he has scored 20 or more goals in 13 of them. The lone exception came in 2012-13, when he tallied 18 goals in a 48-game campaign shortened by a lockout.

Marchand already has 25 goals in 52 games this season. He scored 21 in 72 matchups last year. The fact that Marchand is on pace to tie his career high of 39 goals about a year-and-a-half after having double hip surgery is remarkable. It’s a testament to his elite skill and strong work ethic.

Marchand’s place among Bruins legends is pretty secure. His No. 63 going up to the Garden rafters at some point seems like a lock. But what about the Hall of Fame? What was once a ludicrous topic is now very, very real.

“I think that’s the ultimate recognition that a player can get is to be in the Hall of Fame,” Marchand told reporters after Monday’s practice. “Is it achievable? I don’t know. I see the amount of time I feel like I can still play. I don’t know what it takes to get there. I’m going to play every single day, and come to the rink every day and try to get better and try to play as long as I can. If it happens, it happens. It’s not so much a goal, as it’d be a dream come true.”

We could give you a bunch of reasons why Marchand deserves serious Hall of Fame support, but the numbers themselves make the best case.

Marchand is three goals away from 400. The only players with more goals than him since the start of the 2010-11 season are Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. If Marchand plays until he’s 40, he’ll likely reach 500 goals, which would make him a HOF lock.

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Marchand is also one of the league’s best playoff performers. The only player with more postseason points since the start of 2010-11 is Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov. Only Joe Pavelski has scored more playoff goals than Marchand in that span. Marchand has helped lead the B’s to three Cup Final appearances, including the aforementioned 2011 title.

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Marchand’s defense has been stellar, too. He’s one of the best penalty killers of all time. His 35 shorthanded goals since 2010-11 are 13 more than any other player. The Bruins have the No. 1 ranked penalty kill since 2010-11 at 83.6 percent, and Marchand is a major reason for that success. His excellent defensive play is another reason why Boston has allowed 2.44 goals per game since 2010-11, which is the lowest of the 32 teams. For many years there wasn’t a better defensive duo all over the ice than Marchand and Bergeron.

Leadership is perhaps the one area where Marchand has made the biggest growth. Ten years ago it would have been crazy to suggest that Marchand could one day be captain of the Bruins. But he was an easy choice when Bergeron retired last summer. Marchand has helped continue the incredible team culture and work ethic that previous B’s captains, including Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, built over the last 15 or so years. He often leads by example with how much effort he puts into his craft on and off the ice.

Marchand also has been instrumental in helping so many young Bruins players make the tough adjustment to the NHL.

“You come in as a rookie and he’s the first guy you notice,” Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk said after Monday’s practice. “At that time, there were guys like Bergy and Z, but he just caught my eye with his work ethic and intensity. I think it takes a special player to play 1,000 games no matter who you are. I think his road is probably different than other guys who’ve played 1,000 games. Everyone’s got different journeys, but his is probably one of the most impressive.”

Marchand understands he’s had a remarkable career. But he shows very few, if any, signs of slowing down. Tuesday’s milestone is a big deal, and one of many Marchand has reached in his Bruins tenure. He hopes there’s more to come.

“I feel like personal achievements in the game are something you look back at the end of the day once you retire and you kind of see what you accomplish,” Marchand said. “Kind of set goals throughout my career, and playing 1,000 games was a goal at one point. When it became reachable, I had other goals and bigger aspirations. It is special to look back and kinda see how far it’s come. Hopefully, it’s just a building block to many more.”





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