Brad Marchand said he is a changed man, and that’s one reason he was disappointed to receive a three-game suspension for his slew foot Sunday night on Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Vancouver Canucks.
“I have tried extremely hard over the last four years to get away from the reputation I’ve had,” Marchand said before Tuesday night’s game against the Red Wings. “I think I’ve done an extremely good job at that. I know early on I crossed over the line a lot of times. It’s unfortunate that continues to haunt me.
“I feel I’ve completely transformed myself from the player I was to a player that should be respected in this league for his abilities. I understand completely the history that I have. I just was hoping they would have seen past that. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.”
Marchand, replaced by Taylor Hall on the Bruins’ top line and No. 1 power-play unit against the Red Wings, will also sit for Thursday’s game at Nashville and Saturday’s home game against the Lightning. Marchand was in the press box during the game, chatting with ex-teammate Adam McQuaid during the second intermission.
General manager Don Sweeney offered a blunt response to the suspension.
“My private thoughts versus my public comments will be far different,” Sweeney said. “Respectfully disagree.”
Team president Cam Neely said on 98.5 The Sports Hub that he expected Marchand to receive a one-game suspension.
“A little tough to take,” Neely said.
Marchand, who has grown from undersized pest to arguably the NHL’s best all-around left wing, was last in trouble with the league in January 2018, when he was banned for five games for elbowing the Devils’ Marcus Johansson. In total, Marchand has been suspended seven times for 22 games lost, and fined five times for $971,368.
As for the hit, Marchand said he was trying to get leverage on a larger player.
Defending Marchand, linemate Patrice Bergeron noted that others have drawn lesser penalties for similar plays. The Sharks’ Kevin Labanc was suspended one game, and the Devils’ P.K. Subban drew two fines for $20,000.
“I thought three games is a lot,” Bergeron said. “Let’s remember that Marchy’s been close to four years now without any suspension, and in that time frame he’s become one of the best players in the league, an elite player, a leader.
“He plays his heart out every night ... Does he get into it at times? Probably. Has he crossed the line lately? I don’t think so.”
Artemi Panarin would disagree. Last Friday, the Rangers star took off his glove and threw it at Marchand from the opposite bench. Panarin, who was fined $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct, explained that Marchand ticked him off by making a wisecrack about his homeland, Russia.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Marchand said, when asked if he felt the league was sending a message after that incident. “There’s no reason for them to hold that against me. I had a glove thrown at me. I didn’t say anything out of line to him. He reacted a certain way and he got penalized.”
Panarin has been an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, which has caused him strife back home (and led to him taking a two-week leave from the Rangers last spring to address security concerns).
“I said no one in Russia likes him,” Marchand said. “So if that is now what is setting guys over the edge, then this is the softest league in the world … There are a lot worse things said out there.”
In Marchand’s absence, and with three power plays (1 for 3), the top line of Hall-Bergeron-David Pastrnak skated nearly 22 minutes together. Pastrnak had a game-high nine shots (10 attempts) and five giveaways … The absence of fourth-line left winger Anton Blidh (upper body), who was hurt in Sunday’s game, had the Bruins using Jake DeBrusk, Erik Haula, and Curtis Lazar on that line ... Had the Bruins been able to call up a player from Providence in the absence of Marchand and Blidh, Oskar Steen (6-7—13 in 12 games) or Zach Senyshyn (8-4—12 in 17 games) might have gotten the call, despite both being right wingers. However, Providence was on COVID lockdown, no one in or out … With the COVID cases on the Bruins’ coaching staff, assistants Joe Sacco and Kevin Dean, and skills coach Kim Brandvold, were behind the bench. All three were masked. Sacco, of Medford, was last a head coach with Colorado from 2009-13. “I was rusty,” he said. “It’s been a while.” … Linus Ullmark started his second consecutive game in net for the Bruins and faced the lowest shot total (16) of any full-length game he has played … With 9:31 left in the second period, referee Marc Joannette needed assistance getting off the ice. Joannette stepped on Jakub Zboril’s stick and his leg twisted underneath him as he fell.