Bruins captain was there to offer support to teammates during Game 5 win

By Eric Russo


May 15, 2024

SUNRISE, Fla. – Brad Marchand may not have been on the ice on Tuesday night, but he surely made his presence felt.

While the Boston captain was still sidelined by an upper-body injury suffered in Game 3 when he was struck in the head by Florida’s Sam Bennett, he still managed to leave his impact on the Bruins’ Game 5 victory that extended their second-round series with the Panthers.

Before the game, Marchand could be seen in the tunnel going through his normal pre-warmups routine during which he offered hugs, head taps, and fist bumps to his teammates.

And when the Bruins took the ice, Marchand’s No. 63 sweater remained neatly hung in his stall as a reminder to the rest of the Black & Gold that they were playing to give their leader a chance to return to the ice later in the series.

“His jersey’s still hanging right there,” Jeremy Swayman said after another stellar showing between the pipes that included 28 saves on 29 shots. “It will never come down because he’s gonna be back in it very soon. Just explains what kind of human being he is, what kind of leader he is to our group. Even when he’s not playing, he’s here warming up with us, doing whatever he needs to do to be around as if he were playing.

“Talk about a calm and cool, collected human, it’s Marchy. He knows exactly what to say. Just couldn’t be happier being a part of this group and having a leader like him.”

In between periods, Marchand also made sure to be in the dressing room to deliver his message to the group.

“Having him around is awesome in any capacity,” said alternate captain Charlie McAvoy, whose second-period tally proved to be the winner. “Just his presence for us means a lot in everything that he carries and what he means to this team. Having him here on this trip…he’s in there during the game and constantly giving us life and giving us positivity and that means a lot.

“We had his jersey hung in his stall tonight. We know what he means to this group. We didn’t say die. We wanted to see this thing go back to Boston and give him a chance to get right and hopefully be back.”

Fellow alternate captain David Pastrnak said that it was “important” to have Marchand on the trip despite his inability to be in the lineup.

“As a professional athlete, not being able to play, watch the games…sometimes as a player you don’t realize how freaking nervous you are. I talked to him…I had it in the bubble, it’s not fun to watch your team go to battle,” said Pastrnak.

“He was amazing. He came in between every period and gave a little quick speech. He was there for us. We talked and wanted to get him back in the series and keep extending the series. We are proud of him and our team overall.”

McAvoy Makes Mark

Heading into Game 5, much had been made about McAvoy being held without an official shot on goal in the series. But on Tuesday night, that changed drastically.

The defenseman landed a team-high six shots on net, including his first goal of the postseason at 10:25 of the second period, which gave Boston a 2-1 lead and proved to be the winner.

“I’ve been trying, certainly taking shots. Just haven’t been able to see them get to the net,” said McAvoy. “You never lose confidence. It’s the playoffs. It’s up and down, it’s emotional. Today’s a new day. That’s all we’re given. I’ve been trying to keep the same mindset. I’m grateful for these opportunities and the guys that I get to go to war with.

“I want to do my best to the best that I can, [Tuesday night] was good to see them get on net and see them create some opportunities for our team. It’s up and downs, you’ve got to stay even keeled.”

McAvoy’s marker came on a stellar sequence that began in the Bruins’ defensive end when Charlie Coyle corralled a puck and found Trent Frederic in the neutral zone. As Frederic entered the Florida end, he opened up and delivered a pass to Coyle, who left a sneaky drop pass to a trailing McAvoy.

“It was great poise by Freddy just to pull up and then we get numbers,” said Coyle. “I didn’t know if I was gonna go back to Fred or keep it. Chuck came off [the bench] like an animal. [Danton] Heinen draws a guy to him to the net. I don’t think we score without that either.

“I don’t think he gets a point on it but a nice play by Heinen. Just a spur of the moment thing to drop it to Charlie and thank God it was the right play.”

Boston’s blue liner hopped off the bench and surged into the offensive zone, collecting Coyle’s feed and ripping a wrister over the glove over Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

“I saw we had numbers and I saw [Andrew Peeke] was coming for a change,” said McAvoy. “Second period, sometimes you can win the change battle and get a chance. Started yelling right away. Great play by him to have patience with the puck and to find me. Was pumped to see it go in.”

There was some pause, however, as Florida coach Paul Maurice challenged the play for goalie interference with Heinen and Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson tangled in the crease. But after a review, it was determined that Bobrovsky had time to reset and the goal stayed on the board – much to the relief of the Bruins, who had a controversial goalie interference review go against them in Game 4.

“Oh, he was freaking out,” joked Pastrnak.

“This one has to go our way,” McAvoy said when asked what was going through his mind during the review. “Just hoping. I thought on the play when I collected the puck, I got my head up and he seemed square to me that he was able to square up and just 1-on-1.

“Didn’t look like he was interfered with. I just kept thinking it was a fair play. It was 1-on-1 and he had a chance. Just happy that that one went our way. You never know with these things. We needed that one.”

For the game, McAvoy finished with a goal, an assist, a plus-1 rating, six shots on goal, and three hits in 23:26 of ice time. The 26-year-old now has 10 points (goal, nine assists) in 15 career elimination games, tying Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference for third-most among Boston defensemen.

“Charlie does it all...whatever the situation calls for in a game, he comes and makes that big play,” said Coyle. “[Tuesday night], it was the goal in that moment...but it's everything else he does in the game to make a big difference."

Montgomery said McAvoy’s leadership was also on full display in Game 5.

“He’s extremely competitive, he’s kind of quiet, doesn’t say much, but you could see him talking a lot [on Tuesday night] on the bench,” said Montgomery. “And his play was instrumental in our victory. And I think the goal for him is huge.”

Pastrnak, McAvoy talk following Game 5 win @ FLA

That’s the Sway

Swayman continued his torrid postseason performance with a 28-save effort in Boston’s Game 5 victory. The win was sealed when Swayman made a point-blank stop on Florida forward Sam Reinhart in the closing seconds.

“I'm so grateful for the opportunities and how the games present themselves,” said Swayman. “I just embrace everything with open arms and a smile. Just so proud of the guys in front of me, the way that they battled...we had an edge. We weren’t taking no for an answer.”

Montgomery said that Swayman’s calm demeanor has had a significant effect on his teammates.

“I think it’s the quality of people in our dressing room,” said Montgomery. “Starts with our captain, then we have two assistants, then we have our subgroup underneath that and then we have a goaltender that’s extremely confident. His swagger gives confidence. People read his quotes and we know he believes it.”

Swayman, meanwhile, said his confidence stems his Black & Gold brethren.

“I think it’s just contagious in this room,” said Swayman. “I think everyone has that effect on everybody and that’s just a big testament to the quality of players and human beings we have in here and people that are willing to work and pay attention to detail and take that extra step, make that extra play.

“For me personally, I know that’s what makes me so calm and confident in this group. I want to do my job just as much as they’re doing theirs. It’s a great team to be a part of.”

Swayman talks after Bruins beat Panthers in Game 5