TAMPA — Brad Marchand wasn't even on the ice the first time he was booed by Lightning fans on Thursday. The Bruins center's photo on the video board was enough to generate that reaction at Amalie Arena.
He is the one they love to hate.
Marchand is both a skilled star and a pest. It's a rare combination.
"He has perfected the craft of that role," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said before his team got a 3-2 win over the Bruins. "I know that everything he does on the ice there, it all leads back to trying to win the game.
"He is just a competitor. I know he has probably rubbed people the wrong way in certain situations, but I don't think there are ever bad intentions in doing so. I think he just gets caught up in the moment at times."
One of those times came during last season's second-round playoff series between the Lightning and the Bruins when he licked Ryan Callahan. No one is explicitly mentioning that now — that was last year, and they're focused on the game at hand — but the lick is underneath conversations.
"It's when he has the balance," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Marchand's game. "He's very good at using his swagger to his advantage. So when he's on, he seems to get even more confident. As long as someone doesn't take him off his game or he doesn't take himself off his game, then he's really effective.
"It's just who he is. He's just evolved into that type of player. He knows he can be a game-changer, and that's who he wants to be. It doesn't always work out that way, but that's who he wants to be."
Cooper praised Marchand's passion on the ice. Marchand embraces his role and the ire of the fans. During last season's All-Star Game at Amalie Arena, he turned it up even further, to the point that he even (perhaps temporarily) converted some of the fans to his side.
"He's obviously one of the top players in the league, his skill, that shot, the way the line plays together," Callahan said. "He's definitely a special player."