Last night after the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout win at Columbus, I noted in my quick game recap that it was pleasing to see Brad Marchand back to his feisty self after his third-period benching last Friday on Long Island.
I hereby retract this statement.
After seeing his hit on R.J. Umberger just once live and once on a quick replay, I didn’t give is a second thought, much like the NESN broadcast of the game I was watching.
Since then I’ve watched the play over and over again, and realized that Marchand really crossed a line by throwing his elbow at Umberger’s head from behind in questionable pursuit of the puck. Here it is one more time:
There’s no doubt there should be at least a one-game suspension for Marchand, who has not committed any prior infractions worthy of a suspension in his NHL career. Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina had one one-game suspension prior to his elbow on Chicago’s Dean Bolland last week, and Kubina got three games from the NHL. As of 11 a.m., there was no word on any league action in regards to Marchand.
Regardless of how the NHL rules or doesn’t rule, Marchand obviously still has some maturing to do. He lost all his third-period ice time against the Islanders because of the stupid penalties he took in the second period of that game and the third period of the previous night’s contest against Buffalo; and also because of some other overly rambunctious play that has coincided with a lengthy scoring drought (no goals in nine games).
In the aftermath of the benching, Marchand said he knew he had to tone down his act. Well, he obviously has an odd sense of “toned down.”
Luckily for him, the referees completely missed his hit because Rule 48 could’ve come into play and left the Bruins extra shorthanded. Instead, the Bruins got a scoring chance and then seconds later a goal.
Head coach Claude Julien obviously didn’t see the hit either, or he would’ve been less than pleased with his player making contact with the head of another in a situation that was completely avoidable. He might’ve even sliced the forward’s ice time again.
As always, we can only guess at intent because none of us can read Marchand’s mind. But on a play like that, typically a player will reach out for the puck and try to make some shoulder-to-shoulder contact in order to gain inside position. What Marchand did was the equivalent of a chicken wing followed by a half-hearted attempt to reach out for the puck.
Marchand probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to make head contact from behind on an opposing player, considering all the Bruins have been through in the wake of the Zdeno Chara affair and what the entire league has been talking about down in Florida during the GM meetings in terms of heightened awareness and stricter penalties for hits to the head.
Just when I thought Marchand had learned his lesson, he not only put his team at risk for an in-game predicament but made it a possibility that the Bruins could be playing a game or more without one of their leading goal-scorers. With the team in the midst of a scoring drought, outside of its No. 1 line and Zdeno Chara, that’s the last thing the Bruins need.
And even if the league excuses Marchand’s action, Julien might have to address it, again.