The truly frustrating thing about Brad Marchand is that he’d be a star without all the bullshit. He’s on the top line of the team with the best odds to win the Cup because he’s really, really good at hockey, not because of the other stuff. It’s just that the other stuff—“pest” feels insufficient to describe someone with the breadth and consistency of his bag of dirty tricks—generally makes him even more valuable. Riling up opponents, drawing penalties, getting guys away from their game: all of this has a purpose, even if it doesn’t always pay off for his team, and even if sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether Marchand’s pestilence is mere machination, or him surrendering to his id.
Tuesday night was the bad:
Marchand delivered a punch to the back of the head of a totally unsuspecting Scott Harrington during a stoppage of play in Columbus’s 2-1 win over Boston. It’s galling for a number of reasons, not least that it was completely unnecessary, and that Marchand skated away rather than own it.
It’s also dangerous, and malicious rather than puckish. It went unnoticed by officials, who were breaking apart a scrum, but it will be discussed by the league’s Department of Player Safety. While the punch on its own might not rise to the level of suspendible offense for most players, this isn’t most players. Marchand has racked up six suspensions and three fines in his career, and could easily and fairly have had more of each.
(Update, 10:45 a.m.: No fine or suspension is expected for Marchand.)
The Blue Jackets held their tongues after the game, with John Tortorella snapping at reporters, “I’m not giving you my thoughts. I don’t need to give you my thoughts on that.”
This incident comes just days after Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy went to bat for Marchand, following a stick-snapping incident in Game 1:
“Marchie’s a competitive guy. I think that narrative gets out there,” Cassidy told reporters, per the Boston Herald. “Marchie had no penalty minutes in the playoffs before [Saturday] night. None. Zero. Leading scorer on our team. All of a sudden I’ve got people in the NHL [saying] ‘keep an eye on him.’ What are you talking about? Why are you going down this road on a guy that’s kept his nose clean?”
The thing about Brad Marchand is that at any time you can accuse him of dirty play, and you won’t be wrong for long.
More concerning for the Bruins is that Marchand is in a real-deal slump. He hasn’t recorded a point since Game 6 against the Leafs, and their top line’s punchlessness is glaring now that they’re in a 2-1 series hole to Columbus. Boston needs Marchand to cut out shit like last night’s, and but more desperately needs him to get back to being an actual, valuable hockey player.