Brad Marchand could very well have hurt his team again with his unnecessary and selfish antics after the whistle late in his team’s 2-1 Game 3 loss. He is already targeted by the referees and while Bruins fans won’t admit it, that bullseye on his back is very much warranted based on his track record. What he did at the end of Game 3 won’t help that at all and was exactly why he can’t shed the cheap shot and agitator image he formed prior to amassing 100 points this past regular season.
By no means should his jab to the back of Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington’s head had gotten him suspended, though NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman did warn Marchand on Tuesday that if he pulls this latest stunt again, he will be suspended.
As many who have watched and covered and others who have played this game, or those who have done all of the above pointed out, such actions are just part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Emotions and physicality are raised to a level that some like yours truly may think they understand but only those who have played in the best damn tournament in sports can really comprehend.
“We’ve all been punched,” hall of famer Wayne Gretzky quipped to TMZ on Wednesday when asked if he thought Marchand’s jab was a cheap shot.
Gretzky’s right; and while it was most definitely a cheap shot, there’s plenty of them that go uncalled during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, because right or wrong, the consensus is to let the players play and let them become engulfed in the pure emotion of the magnitude of the moment. Even Harrington seemed to not take much issue with it.
“It’s a hockey play,” he told the media Wednesday. “I know there wasn’t a suspension or anything. It is what it is and we’re moving on”
Harrington’s comments could very well been a a result of what was instructed from above as head coach John Tortorella made it clear after Game 3, he wasn’t going to bite and give the Bruins’ agitator any satisfaction that he may have succeeded and got into his and his team’s heads.
“I am not giving you my thoughts. I don’t need to give any thoughts on that,” Tortorella said. “You guys can come up with something there.”
And therein lies the rub here. In what has been a very physical, intense and entertaining series between the whistles thus far, are shenanigans after the whistle worth it for a Bruins team that was at the time of the jab on the verge of, and now are trailing 2-1 in the series. With the very real potential of falling behind 3-1 and heading back to Boston on the brink of elimination, should Marchand or any Bruin be part of that part of playoff hockey?
Marchand said that his jab to Harrington was in retaliation for some similar shots Jake DeBrusk had taken before that but now with the attention, it’s gotten, he would think twice going forward.
“I guess because of having to talk about it today, it’s not something I’d go back to do it again,” Marchand said after practice Wednesday. “But stuff like that just happens in hockey. You watch the play there and Jake [DeBrusk] took about six punches from two guys. It is what it is.”
Unfortunately what it is for the Bruins, is that he is Brad Marchand and as head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out following his team’s 3-2 double-overtime loss in Game 2, Marchand is being and likely always will be targeted by the referees and media, even for acts that are acceptable for others in playoff hockey, despite the fact he just had a 100-point season.
“Marchy had no penalty minutes in the playoffs. None, until last night, zero,” told the media Sunday. “Leading scorer on our team. All of a sudden I’ve got NHL (news), like ‘keep an eye out.’ I’m kind of like, ‘What are you talking about? Why are you going down this road on a guy that’s kept his nose clean?’”
So I have a bit of a problem with the treatment of Marchy with certain officials,” he said. “And I think he’s earned some of his, obviously, his reputation. But not right now. He’s been clean all year, he’s been clean all playoffs. So I hoped that would go away and the talk would be about ‘hey he hasn’t scored in two games, what can we do to get him going there?’ ”
Columbus scored on that ensuing power play in question in Game 2 and then in Game 3, Marchand took a high-sticking penalty at 10:49 of the second period and Matt Duchene scored the eventual game-winning goal on that power play at 12:42 of the middle frame. So, unfortunately, despite keeping his promises to clean his act up and not being suspended this past season, Marchand is still public enemy No. 1 with the officials. Instead of whining about it and still becoming engaged in acts that may cross the line but that others get away with it, it’s time for the Bruins to reinforce to Marchand he won’t get away with anything.
“I don’t — there’s really nothing for me to say there. There’s nothing going on with that particular play,” Cassidy said Wednesday. “Marchy, my concern is — I talked to (a reporter) a couple days ago — (he had) zero penalty minutes, well it’s now at four. So now we’ve got to talk to him about staying out of the box on altercations, whatever you want to call them. You’re going to take penalties through the course of a game if you’re competing, Marchy will do that on pucks. Those ones that are sort of, call them away from the play, maybe, we’ve got to talk to him about those. We need him on the ice. And the way the series has gone every power play has been crucial, both ways. So we’ve got to make sure that he plays hard between the whistles, and that will be the message to him.”
As Cassidy pointed out, once again it’s time for Marchand – and yes based on his rep that he earned – to either walk the line and help his team – or revert back to the Marchand that put the target on his back.
“Well generally it’s he’s getting on the line with the penalties because he’s getting whistled for them,” Cassidy pointed out. “So we’ve got to keep him on the right side of the line, that’s how I deal with it as a coach. Remind him how valuable he is to the team, that it’s playoff hockey, that your name or number is circled in their locker room (and they’re saying) ‘We’ve got to get him off of his game.’ What does that mean? It means you’re one of the better players. If you weren’t a good player they wouldn’t be targeting you. So you got to understand that there’s a little bit that goes along with it, and he’s got to find that balance on the ice. And we’ve been dealing with this for a long time, so this isn’t an easy — this isn’t me just going up (and saying) ‘hey Marchy, knock it off’ it doesn’t work that way.”
“You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine, I walk the line”
-Johnny Cash, Walk The Line
Can Marchand get back to the player and leader he was during the regular season in Game 4 and going forward in this series? Can he ‘walk the line’ and ‘turn the tide’? The read here is yes, but that’s up to Marchand. It’s clear he won’t get the benefit of the doubt from the referees, so don’t give them any doubt that he’s not the superstar he is and simply just an agitator.