His scoring touch red-hot, his ticket punched for this weekend’s All-Star Game, Brad Marchand is having one heck of a season.
And now the Li’l Ball o’ Hate may be in a heck of a lot of trouble.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Wednesday that it will hold a hearing with the Bruins winger Thursday for his “dangerous trip” of Niklas Kronwall during Boston’s 4-3 overtime win over the Red Wings at the Garden Tuesday.
Marchand, who has been suspended multiple times for his edgy play through the years, came up from behind the 6-foot Kronwall just as a whistle was blown to halt play. The contact in question, unpenalized by the referees, had Marchand kicking at the back of one of Kronwall’s legs, a potentially dangerous play if the victim were to fall backward and slam his head.
Kronwall, some 30 feet from the puck at the point of contact, was unharmed. But Marchand’s act riled up the Wings and caught the eye of the league, which is likely to fine him and very well could suspend him, particularly because he is a repeat offender.
Most recently, in December 2015, Marchand was suspended three games for his clip on Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki.
In January 2015, he was caught for slew footing the Rangers’ Derick Brassard and was suspended two games.
His stiffest suspension, in January 2012, was for five games, for a clip on Vancouver blue liner Sami Salo, which set back Marchand $152,000 in lost wages. That same season, he also was fined $2,500 for a slew foot on Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen.
Given his list of priors, it would be a surprise if Marchand avoided a suspension. It’s a virtual certainty he will be fined.
A suspension would come at a crucial time for the Bruins, who this week slipped out of the playoff structure and Thursday must face the defending champion Penguins at the Garden.
Coincidentally, Bruins coach Claude Julien spoke Thursday about Marchand’s trademark edge and how he has learned to temper it in recent years as he developed into one of the game’s top performers.
“I think he’s realizing now that he’s not just a pest, but he’s a respected, good hockey player viewed as one of the best players in the league,” said Julien. “He deserves a lot of credit, because he made himself into that player.
“It took a while with some disciplinary issues. He’s gotten better and smarter about those things and he’s getting rewarded for it now.”
Marchand, some believe, is at his best when he is playing with an edge.
“I think there is a fine balance that needs to be there,” said Julien, who likely would move Frank Vatrano into Marchand’s left wing spot with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
“I think when he’s chirping a little bit, it means he is in the game. When he crosses that fine line, it takes away from his game. When he keeps that fine line in the right place, it helps his game.”
Marchand connected for two goals Tuesday night, his 18th and 19th strikes of the season. He was tied for the team lead until Pastrnak ripped home the OT winner for his 20th.
Marchand, the club’s top point-getter from the start of the season (his current line: 19-28—47), has connected for nine goals in the last 10 games.
It’s a stark contrast to earlier this season when Marchand went through protracted stretches with little of his trademark pop — including a 10-game run in which he scored but once, and a 16-game stretch in which he connected only twice.
“No. 1, he was missing the net quite a bit, more than he has in the past,” said Julien. “Second of all, I don’t think he was going to the net as well as had done at times.”
The latter point has been central to the club’s video sessions this week. One of Julien’s repeated laments has been his forwards’ lack of discipline and commitment in prime scoring areas. Too many shots off net. Too many misfires or blocks. Far too many points left on the table.
“Just look at where his two goals came from last night,” said Julien. “Even if one is on the power play, the second, we have two guys in front of the net. He went behind the net, turned right away toward the net.
“There were times this year, you would have seen two guys in front of the net and he would have gone for a skate. Those kind of things, you have to have a nose for the net.
“When he starts feeling it, his goals come in bunches. He’s always been like that. He is a streaky goal scorer.”
Days after the Academy Award nominees were announced, the busiest film room in all of North America churned away at “Body Heat” levels in Brighton, where the Bruins again sat through a lengthy video session prior to hitting the ice for a 40-minute workout Wednesday.
“Obviously, there are some good things in today’s video,” noted Julien, whose club snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday. “But we’re still trying to fix what we need to fix.
“That’s our motto right now: We’ve got to bear down, buckle down, and fix the things we really need to fix.”
It was the second time this week that Julien called together the troops for a full-team cinéma vérité session prior to practice.
There’s never any knowing whether a deep dive through video directly relates to a victory, but Tuesday’s comeback win did come one day after a lengthy tape session.
“I think we are just trying to tighten things up,” said left winger Matt Beleskey. “Video is a great way to do it. Go over some stuff. I think a lot of guys watch video on their own, but I think it’s good to get it from a team point of view.
Defenseman Brandon Carlo, a freshman sensation the first six weeks of the season when he logged a plus-12, has struggled of late. He was caught in an awkward spot on Tomas Tatar’s go-ahead goal in the second period Tuesday and now has a minus-2 rating for the season.
“There’ve been a few breakdowns that stick out,” said Julien. “But there have been breakdowns by a lot of our other guys, too, so I don’t see him any worse than anybody.”
What has struck Julien so far is Carlo’s eagerness, in the wake of a mistake, to make up for a miscue and look for a way to help the team.
“He doesn’t hang his head,” added Julien. “He doesn’t get discouraged. He doesn’t pout. He just buckles down — I know I use that word a lot — but I like the fact that he bears down and tries to make a difference for the rest of the game. That’s impressive for a young player.”