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Bruins’ Brad Marchand in new mode entering playoffs

Brad Marchand, 63, of the Boston Bruins and Kasperi Kapanen, 24, of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for control of the puck during the second period of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference first round in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs at TD Garden on April 25, 2018 in Boston, Mass.

The Maple Leafs have been riled, rattled, repulsed and regaled by Brad Marchand’s antics, from that infamous golf swing eight years ago, to licking Leo Komarov’s face last year, to mind-messing with Mitch Marner on social media in March.

But when its come to more conventional warfare, within the norms of the National Hockey League, Marchand almost always departs in triumph, with a prominent place on the scoresheet, while Toronto exits quietly.

What should concern the Leafs most of all in this third Boston-Toronto series involving Marchand since 2013, is that he’s more dangerous than ever, having toned down the sideshow.

Aside from some mischief on Twitter, Marchand has been on his best behaviour this season, no call from the league office for slew foots, late hits or tongue tickling. He ended the regular season Saturday with 100 points, sharing the triple-figure mark with league elites such as fellow Nova Scotian Sidney Crosby and he’ll get some all-star votes at left wing.

As one Boston wag noted, any more of this calm deportment and the Department of Player Safety will have to start laying off staff.

“His work ethic is something everyone can learn from,” linemate Patrice Bergeron told the Boston Globe. “The way he can put things in the past, good and bad, and stay in the moment. His joy and enthusiasm, around the locker room at all times, is pretty special and contagious.”

Tuukka Rask has frustrated the Leafs in Boston’s net, man-mountain Zdeno Chara has smothered them on coverage and Bergeron has beaten them in faceoffs. But the narrative of Boston’s success against Toronto in big games has a lot to do with Marchand. In 40 regular-season games against the Leafs (Boston won the 2018-19 series 3-1 with all matches completed before the all-star break), Marchand has racked up 14 goals and 23 assists and is a healthy plus-16.

Many recall former Boston coach Claude Julien trying to bring this Tasmanian Devil under control in his early NHL years, gestures such as the golf swing to taunt the eliminated Leafs standing out. But much of the credit for the Marchand project goes to current meister Bruce Cassidy, who was in charge of him with the Providence Bruins from 2008-10.

Cassidy made Marchand realize his offensive potential, which resulted in back-to-back 85-point seasons before 2018-19’s rocket to 100 on the ‘Perfection Line’ with Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

“(Marchand) has worked as hard as anyone in the NHL,” Cassidy praised in the Globe of the 30-year-old’s ever-improving release and morphing into a shooter/passer on the power play after being used as a crease distraction.   

“I couldn’t be prouder. I think he takes a lot of pride now in knowing how good he can be offensively. When he’s on the ice, he’s deadly.”

Toronto coach Mike Babcock had Marchand on his 2016 World Cup championship squad and the two have been complimentary of each other amid the lively playoff rivalry that  sprung up since Babcock turned the Leafs around.

Marchand still plays with attitude and that’s a trait some Leafs need to develop at crunch time.

Marchand’s latest ‘victim’ was Marner and, by extension, Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas. When Marner reached 80 points a month ago, Marchand tweeted “I can’t wait to see this kid’s new deal … 12 (million dollars) AAV?? It better be.”

Marchand later insisted on TV he was just giving Marner “credit where credit is due,” delivering his lines with a Machiavellian grin. The Leafs were amused, Dubas calling it “a masterful troll job.”

Just another way Marchand can cause the Leafs grief in the coming series.

GETTING IN HIS LICKS

Leo Komarov is gone, but the Maple Leafs can’t be sure if they won’t get another ‘licking’ from Brad Marchand.

The outlandish gesture last year left the chatty Komarov speechless when it first happened and it certainly had the Leafs going into scrums with some trepidation about being smooched.

Young defenceman Travis Dermott was asked what he’d do if Marchand were to try it again.

“I guess we’ll have to face that if it happens,” Dermott laughed. “My dog (a mini-Australian shepherd named Niylah) has been eating the floorboards at my apartment and I’ve put down some hot sauce (to discourage it). Maybe I’ll put some hot sauce on.

“We’ll see. Everyone knows how to handle it. I’d just let it happen and hope the league handles it.”

lhornby@postmedia.com

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