Marchand Appears to Be Up to Old Tricks for Bruins
By Steve Conroy
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brad Marchand was not suspended for his quick jab to the back of the head of Blue Jackets defenseman Scott Harrington in Game 3, nor should he have been.
The punch did not have the kind of force behind it that would raise it to the level of intent to injure and, quite frankly, the howls from certain corners for a suspension bordered on ludicrous. The fact that it was oft-suspended Marchand was the only reason a suspension even was a point of discussion.
That’s the good news for Bruins fans. The bad news? The old Marchand, the one that always is pushing the boundaries of good judgment, the one that had been effectively controlled all year, slowly but surely has been resurfacing in this tough series against the Blue Jackets.
In Game 1 he had the stick-stomping incident with Cam Atkinson. He took an aggressive penalty in each of the last two contests (cross checking in Game 2 and high sticking in Game 3) that led to Columbus goals, including the game-winner in Game 3.
And the punch to the back of Harrington’s head? It wasn’t suspension-worthy, but if it was caught by the on-ice officials Marchand most likely would have been called for a two-minute minor. With just over a minute left in a playoff game. With the Bruins trailing by a goal and the goalie pulled. It would have been a horrible penalty to take.
As it turned out, of course, the B’s did not tie it up, but if Marchand had been called for unsportsmanlike conduct it would have ended any chance to B’s had of tying. And they did have a chance.
Coach Bruce Cassidy was asked Sunday if the tiff with Atkinson and the cross checking penalty in Game 2 were a sign of frustration from Marchand (now pointless in four straight games for the first time this year). Cassidy eagerly leaped to his player’s defense, pointing out at the time that Marchand had been called for just one penalty in nine playoff games.
But after his transgressions in Game 3, Cassidy conceded that yet another conversation was on tap with his star left winger.
“We’ve got to keep him on the right side of the line,” Cassidy said. “That’s how I deal with it as a coach. Remind him how valuable he is to the team, that it’s playoff hockey. Your name and number is circled in their locker room. ‘We’ve got to get this guy off his game.’ What does that mean? That you’re one of the better players. If you weren’t, they wouldn’t be targeting you. So you’ve got to understand (everything) that goes along with that. And he’s got to find that balance on the ice.”
While GM Don Sweeney believed the rampant talk of suspension was well overboard, he did acknowledge Marchand can’t keep doing things that will send him to the box.
“It’s an unnecessary overreaction. That’s really what it is,” Sweeney said of the late-game punch. “Let’s be honest, Brad had a fantastic year without any of those distractions and I think he’d say the same thing. It won’t be an issue going forward.”
Marchand, meanwhile, wasn’t exactly defiant when meeting with reporters, but he wasn’t the model of contrition, either. He said the punch was not borne out of frustration, but rather an answer to Jake DeBrusk having a few shots thrown his way. Regret didn’t flow freely out of him.
“I guess because of having to talk about it today, it’s not something I’d go back to do it again,” Marchand said. “But stuff like that just happens in hockey. You watch the play there and Jake took about six punches from two guys. It is what it is.”
Marchand also wasn’t concerned that the punch served to put a bigger bull’s eye on his back with regard to the officials.
“They’re letting teams play and that’s playoff hockey. It’s the way it should be played. They’re letting a lot go. And that’s how it should be this time of year,” Marchand said. “They let us battle it out. Each team gets one or two penalties a game, so they’re doing a good job and not dictating games based on special teams, they’re making us battle 5-on-5 and that’s how playoff hockey should be. I’m not concerned about that. I’ll try to stay within the rules and they’re going to call the game the way they see fit. That’s playoff hockey.”
But if Marchand wants to continue playing playoff hockey this year, he’ll need to focus on the game between the whistles and not settling scores that don’t show up on the scoreboard.