Brad Marchand’s stellar regular season saw him produce career-best totals in points (100) and assists (64). Another number that makes the Bruins proud: zero check-ins with the league about misbehavior.
Marchand ended that good-boy streak on Tuesday, when he opted to punch Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington in the back of the head during a goal-mouth stoppage in Boston’s Game 3 loss.
With 1:01 left and the Bruins down a goal, officials had their hands full as Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak were tangling with Blue Jackets David Savard and Josh Anderson. With attention elsewhere, Marchand jabbed Harrington, who was on his knees, in the back of the head as he skated by. TV cameras caught — and replayed — the knock, letting fans on social media jump all over it.
A source familiar with the situation told the Globe on Wednesday that NHL Department of Player Safety head George Parros called Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to discuss the matter. Marchand was not suspended. Were it a regular-season game, a fine would be likely. Since the NHL draws fines from players’ regular-season paychecks, they are not levied in the playoffs.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he would speak to Marchand, more concerned that he has taken two minor penalties against Columbus — and twice skated out of the box after Blue Jackets goals.
“We have to make sure he plays hard between the whistles,” Cassidy said. “That will be the message to him.”
Marchand, admitting it was an “unnecessary play,” didn’t apologize. His only regret came “from having to talk about it today,” he said in Boston’s dressing room after practice. While it was “probably not something I’d go back and do it again,” he said, he defended it as “playoff hockey,” and noted he was reacting to DeBrusk taking “about six punches from two guys.”
His focus was on trying to even the series, not settle the score.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “We’re down, 2-1. We were in this position last series as well. We’re not feeling any pressure, not worried at all.
“That’s playoffs. People are blowing things out of proportion a little bit, but we’re calm in this room and we’re feeling good and we’ll play the game tomorrow.”
When asked about the punch postgame, perpetually salty Columbus coach John Tortorella declined to comment.
“I’m not giving you my thoughts,” Tortorella said, showing distaste with his tone. “I don’t need to give you any thoughts. You can come up with something there.”
For his part, Harrington was undisturbed by the play.
“It’s fine,” he said with a growing smile. “That’s what the helmet’s for . . . I think you always want to see a penalty, especially at that time of the game. Obviously no one saw it. No big deal.
“We’re hockey players. We’re going to take shots . . . Hopefully over the course of the series that’ll give us some power plays.”
Marchand has one of the game’s longest rap sheets: six suspensions for 19 games, and nine fines for $605,132.36 in donations to the NHL Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. His face-licking of Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan last postseason caused Bruins management to tell the 30-year-old to cut it out, and focus his energy on leading the team in scoring. In 2018-19, he went 15 points above his previous best.
He walked the edge in an intense seven-game win over Toronto. His 4-5—9 line had him among the top five leaguewide in first-round playoff production. He is pointless in three games against Columbus. He also made an enemy after stomping the stick of winger Cam Atkinson in Game 1.
When asked by the Globe before the playoffs — before a March game in Columbus, incidentally — if he could continue to keep his nose clean, Marchand knocked on a nearby wooden locker stall.
“You know, there is still a lot of time left,” he said with a slight chuckle. “It’s a day-to-day thing that you’ve got to be composed. I’ve had times where I’ve stepped out of line and kind of lost it a little bit, but it’s a split-second thing.
“Like I say, there’s a lot of time here to try to avoid some trouble, but, yeah, trying to work on it.”
Top line reunited
The Bruins kept Pastrnak on the top line (with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand) at Wednesday’s practice, after returning him there to start the third period of Game 3 . . . With David Backes riding with David Krejci and DeBrusk, Danton Heinen slotted in as the No. 3 right wing . . . The Bruins signed hard-nosed winger Anton Blidh to a two-year, two-way contract extension worth $700,000 annually . . . Tributes from the hockey community poured in Wednesday for Vancouver sportswriter Jason Botchford, who died of apparent heart failure. He was 48. Botchford, who wrote for The Vancouver Province for 13 years before joining The Athletic last fall, was known for his lively, playful, edgy and informed style of commentary.