Kalman: Brad Marchand plays peacemaker, setup man in Game 1 win

Matt Kalman
May 10, 2019 - 1:55 am

When Brad Marchand crosses, or even just comes close to the line with physical play or some tongue-wagging antics, pundits in two countries (and maybe more) clutch their pearls and call for suspensions, prison time and possibly sending him in a rocket to Mars.

So if overreaction is the name of the game when it comes the leading scorer in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, how about this: a Nobel Peace Prize for the Bruins left wing after he preserved a Boston power play with the type of violence prevention that would’ve made Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. proud.

(Hyperbole intentionally done with tongue firmly in cheek.)

Forty-nine seconds into the third period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, Jordan Staal hit Chris Wagner into the end wall from behind, an act that’s usually treated as a felony if Marchand’s the one making the hit.

Anyway the referee put his arm up to call a boarding minor. But Bruins rookie defenseman Connor Clifton went at Staal in defense of Wagner. In flew Marchand to restrain Clifton to prevent a coincidental minor.

“You know it’s not often I’m in that position,” Marchand told WEEI.com. “But obviously it was an important power play and we scored on it, so he did a great job of getting in there but staying disciplined.”

The Bruins took advantage of the ensuing power play to tie the score 2-2, as Marchand got off a one-timer from the left circle that caused a rebound that Marcus Johansson scored on. Twenty-seconds later, during another Boston power play, Marchand executed a perfect touch pass to his brother from another mother Patrice Bergeron for a one-timer from the slot for the go-ahead goal.

The Bruins had a 3-2 lead and would go on to win 5-2, taking a 1-0 series lead in Game 2 of the best-of-7 on Sunday.

“He’s turning over a new leaf, eh, Marshy? Listen, he’s been in these big games. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion, so he understands maybe a little more than meets the eye sometimes,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Good for Brad. We’ve put an ‘A’ on his shirt at times this year for a reason, and I’m glad to see that he made that decision tonight with a younger guy.”

We know what Maple Leafs fans, Canadian fans in general, a majority of the Canadian media, and fans of NHL teams in the United States outside of Boston think the ‘A’ stands for when it’s on Marchand’s shirt. But time and again Marchand has proven he’s deserving of an alternate captain’s A for his leadership with the Bruins, especially off the ice with Boston’s younger players.

Now 30, he’ll do anything for his team and he’s become a team spokesperson, available to the media any time he’s requested, a jovial presence that kids around with every visitor to the dressing room when he’s not thoughtfully analyzing the hockey he’s being asked about. Sure he’s been suspended six times by the NHL, but he avoided supplemental discipline in 2018-19, and only once can you truly point to a suspension-worthy pay that was carried out with an intent to injure.

Although he’s mostly kept on a happy face, things have turned a little sour for Marchand during the playoffs.

Coming off a 100-point regular season, he had eight points (four goals, four assists) in the seven-game first-round series against Toronto but no points through Game 3 of the Columbus series. Linemates Bergeron and David Pastrnak were also getting roasted nightly, with some even suggesting the Bruins should scratch Pastrnak.

Never mind that Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, while not scoring, were helping keep the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin off the score sheet at 5-on-5.

Then we all know what happened to really bring the bees to honey. Marchand broke the shaft of Atkinson’s stick with his skate and spoke about it in a scrum the next day without issue. Atkinson made a joke out of it, but that didn’t prevent the Knights of the Twittersphere, and the CBC, from denigrating Marchand. An interview during pregame warmups included a joke about the stick snap that caused Marchand to end the interview early, and he was blamed for that.

Then Marchand bopped Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington in the back of the head with a gloved hand on the stick during a scrum. Harrington lived. Marchand though should’ve been sentenced to death, the game’s gatekeepers screamed. Where was the same outrage when Columbus’ Dean Kukan elbowed David Backes in the nose? Crickets. Dougie Hamilton had a couple headshots in Game 1 on Thursday, but the outrage brigade seemed to have the night off. Harrington shook it off as no big deal, but his headache clearly spread across Canada, causing many to call for Marchand’s head.

Marchand didn’t have a point in Game 6 in Columbus, and also didn’t have much to say. His one-word answers to questions from media – admittedly mostly local media that hadn’t aggrieved him – caused so much harm to the ears of the punditocracy that Marchand was called dumb, selfish and boorish. Because one day out of the whole season he didn’t wax poetic on winning the series, or just waste everyone’s time by spewing clichés, suddenly it was OK to personally attack a guy who off the ice is as charitable and giving of his time as anyone.

Since that night, Marchand has been back to his old self, willing to talk hockey and credit a player like Clifton for not crossing the line, even if it was Marchand that made sure no trouble came.

“In this room that we stick up for each other and when someone gets the hit like that you stand up for him. So,  I didn’t know how far [Clifton] was going to take it, I just wanted to make that he [stopped],” Marchand said.

It shouldn’t be such a surprise that Marchand did what he did with Clifton. That’s what leaders do. And that’s what Marchand is, a human leader with flaws and strengths. Everything he does that you don’t agree with isn’t the worth thing ever, and everything does well isn’t the greatest thing ever.

But admit it, that restraining of Clifton was the most amazing thing you ever saw. (Wink, wink.)

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