25 May 19
Brad Marchand is a noted pest for the Bruins — a high-scoring, hard-driving pest.
Perhaps the closest to an outspoken, skilled agitator the St. Louis Blues have is David Perron. On his third tour of duty with the Blues, the shifty winger isn’t the same point-producer Marchand is — his best regular season was 66 points with Vegas a year ago — but he plays a similar, grinding game.
“One thing I always really admired about (Perron) is he’s got tremendous skills, but he’s got an edge,” Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier said. “He doesn’t mind getting feisty a little bit. He goes to the corners, he goes to the dirty areas in front. I always liked his game.”
Bernier is an apt judge. In 2007, Bernier and Perron were teammates with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. That year, they faced the Val d’Or Foreurs in the league final. Val d’Or’s top offensive threat? Brad Marchand.
MAY 24, 2019: David Perron of the Lewiston Maineiacs in 2007 now plays for the St. Louis Blues. Ron Morin/Sports Photography
“Especially in junior, your top guys are usually the difference,” Bernier said. “We knew Marchand was going to be a hell of a player, and we had Perron. I was very lucky to play with Perry in junior. I’m assuming they’ll have good memories of that.”
Perron’s memories may be a bit better than Marchand’s: The Maineiacs swept Val d’Or, the final four wins of a 16-1 playoff run. But it wasn’t as easy as 4-0 sounds, particularly because they had to plan for Marchand.
“It’s a player you hate, but you would like to have him on your side,” then-Maineiacs coach Clement Jodoin said. “He’s always going under your skin, all the time, all the time. It’s part of the game, hockey is a game of emotion, and you control those emotions you’re going to do well. He wanted to win, all the time.
“But we did a hell of a job against him that year,” Jodoin continued, his smile almost audible over the phone. “We won in four games that year.”
The players took very different paths to that game, and to the NHL. Marchand was drafted into the QMJHL, and in his first year of eligibility was drafted into the NHL.
Perron was overlooked twice, first as a 16-year-old in the QMJHL draft and then as an 18-year-old in the NHL draft.
“He was never drafted even in juniors,” Jodoin said. “I remember (our head scout) Serge David said, ‘I’ve got to show you a guy.’ He was playing AAA in Montreal. At that time, I went out to see him and I said, ‘For sure, we have to bring him in.’”
His 39-goal, 44-assist season with Lewiston led to his selection in the following NHL draft, at 19, by the Blues.
“Marchand, everyone expected to be a professional player, and maybe even an NHL player at that point,” said Jeff Mannix, Lewiston’s radio broadcaster at the time. “Perron went off like a rocket that one year in Lewiston, taking a lot of people, myself included at the time, by surprise.”
Marchand developed along what most would consider a “normal” tack in the QMJHL. He had 80 points in 57 regular-season games in 2006-07, and 40 points in 20 playoff games. He also had 108 penalty minutes.
“No doubt he earned the ire of the fans in Lewiston the way he played that series,” Mannix said. “But I also have no doubt that if he’d played his junior career in Lewiston, he would have been one of the most-liked Maineiacs in the team’s history.”
Even with his offensive proclivity that season, Marchand’s pro prospects among pundits and players alike were mixed. Bernier, now a friend, remembered how hard Marchand had to work to reach the NHL.
“Hopefully he doesn’t take this wrong,” Bernier said with a laugh, “but I think he was really good in junior, very, very good, but I didn’t think he would be this kind of player. He’s really taken his game to another level in the NHL. He always played with the edge in junior, the way he plays now, but I think he comes out every night and gives his 100 percent. And you can tell from a guy like him, being around (Patrice) Bergeron, every day he takes it seriously. And I think Marchy kind of went and took the same advice. He’s a tremendous player.”
Perron wowed people at every level. He stayed only that one season in Lewiston, making the Blues roster as a 19-year-old rookie in 2008.
“It’s amazing what he was able to do with the puck,” Jodoin said. “In the corners, he was always coming out with the puck. He’s not a big guy and he’s not the fastest skater, but he’s so strong on the puck, he can make plays under pressure.”
Marchand has stayed with the Bruins, playing a year and a half in Providence before joining the NHL club in 2009. Perron’s career has taken a series of turns, each leading him back to St. Louis. He played 2007-13 with the Blues before bouncing to Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, back to the Blues, Vegas via expansion, and back to the Blues again. This past offseason, he resigned in St. Louis for a third time, on a four-year deal.
“It’s been fun, and it’s interesting to see Marchand hook on with one team, with Boston, and Perron kind of go all over the place,” Mannix said. “But he always seems to find his way back to St. Louis.”
And this season, back to the Stanley Cup Final, where he’ll face an old foe in Marchand. In 2007, Perron’s Maineiacs swept Marchand’s Foreurs for the league crown. In 2019, Bruins faithful are hoping Marchand exacts his revenge on the much larger stage.