After squandering two two-goal leads and losing games on back-to-back nights, the Bruins are taking today off.
That’ll give Brad Marchand extra time to think about what he’s done.
The rookie winger was benched for the third period of Boston’s 4-2 loss on Long Island by head coach Claude Julien last night. The official league play-by-play sheet had Marchand skating one brief shift in that last stanza, but if you blinked you missed it.
Marchand took an ill-advised interference penalty on Josh Bailey along the side wall, where he was anticipating the arrival of a hard-around pass by another Islanders player. There was just 1:15 left in the second period, and then with two seconds left in the period the Islanders cut Boston’s lead to 2-1 with a momentum-turning power-play goal.
Thursday night against Buffalo, Marchand’s tripping penalty in the neutral zone against Andrej Sekera set up the Sabres for a 5-on-3, which they used to tie the game early in the third period on their way to an overtime win.
“He knows better than that,” Julien told the media after the game. “We don’t want those kinds of habits to develop in his game, because he’s really been a good player for us this year. He’s playing a little frustrated right now and he’s been taking some really poor penalties. I didn’t feel he was going to help us in the third the way he was playing.”
The night started out swell for Marchand, who earned some power-play time on one of the Bruins’ new-look quintets, which Julien and his staff put together in an effort to revive the moribund man-attack. But by the time the final stanza of a tight game rolled around, the Bruins’ third-leading goal scorer was out of the rotation.
Oft-criticized for his failure to take away a major chunk of a player’s ice time as punishment during his tenure as Bruins coach, Julien is taking a major risk with his singling out of Marchand. On a team that right now features just one scoring line, the Bruins need Marchand to reconnect with Patrice Bergeron and whoever their line’s third winger is and get the offense going again. Marchand has now gone eight games without a goal.
It’ll be interesting to see how the outspoken, emotional rookie whose game is based so much on aggression responds to his benching — both mentally and physically. Marchand has come a long way in terms of maturity this season. Always an irritating player dating back to junior hockey, he has mostly toed the line and kept his agitating from costing the Bruins. Even the two penalties he took to spark Julien’s ire weren’t of the “extracurricular” variety.
Even if he publicly declares he’ll move on and use the benching as a learning point — which you know he probably will — Marchand’s relationship with his coach could be on a rocky road. While their off-ice dealings might not affect his play, Marchand might find himself thinking more rather than reacting out on the ice. If he thinks he could pick up a penalty and then lose ice time, Marchand might shy away from making a big play or just not be less rambunctious, which might cause further drop-off in his contribution level.
These are the trials a coach goes through, especially with a young player. Julien has cast his lot and now we’ll see what he gets out of his 22-year-old down the stretch of the season.