As an Oilers fan it used to be kind of my duty to hate Boston. The reputation they had as the Big Bad Bruins didn’t sit well with me, plus I’ve never liked their uniforms. However, in the heydays of that Oilers/Bruins rivalry I enjoyed watching the games because of the talent it took to beat guys like Neely, Oates, Bourque, Moog, and the list goes on. I had a lot of respect for the way that group of players approached the game. For the last few years though when Boston wins (which they’ve done often up until lately) I get no joy as a hockey fan. I’m instead filled with a seething rage because I see really good players doing things they don’t need to do to win a game they’ve already won. There seems to be a culture in the room there that encourages otherwise respectable players to act like arrogant amateurs. I can’t really get behind and appreciate the talents of the more classy innocent victims like Bergeron and, well, that’s pretty much it, because they’re too overshadowed by the vibe this team gives off. There isn’t really any individual that’s as guilty as anyone else, and no particular incident I can reference that would be my smoking gun for evidence, but as a collective unit they just plain bother me.
You would think this article is leading towards pasting Brad Marchand as the poster boy for the problem but actually I think he’s quite a breath of fresh air because he doesn’t hide it. The elephant in the room can finally be brought to light through his brand. He is willing to do things that not every player either can or will much to the irritation of most opponents and I can think of only a few teams that wouldn’t benefit with him on their roster. He’s no stranger to an NHL game sheet in any column. The man can score goals and contribute to any team in just about every way imaginable. Inevitably though, this approach to the game leads him to the penalty box from time to time, and occasionally to the press box. He has enough skill that he doesn’t depend on that style to be an effective hockey player, he just depends on that style to be Brad Marchand. The problem is he hasn’t learned (and never will learn) how to decide which one to be at any given moment.
The incident in question here is from a game on October 30th, 2015 against the Florida Panthers. Marchand already had a pair of goals and was on the ice helping defend a 3-1 lead with just over two minutes to play in the game. Florida had pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and had the puck in the Boston zone. Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov had the puck near the blue line. Marchand did everything right: angled Kulikov to his backhand and slowly closed the gap forcing Kulikov to dump the puck. Brad Marchand the “hockey player” had done his job perfectly. However, after getting rid of the puck Kulikov was completely turned away from Marchand, numbers clearly exposed. Both players were moving very slowly and Kulikov was in a vulnerable position. Marchand decided it was a good time to place two hands on his stick, place this stick squarely across the lower back of Kulikov and push. Brad Marchand the “hockey player” had done everything right and his team could have walked away quietly with an excellent 3-1 road win during which he played a solid game and was a major contributor with two goals, have a happy flight home. Brad Marchand the “Brad Marchand” just couldn’t hold himself back. Was this a violent play? Not overly, as both players were going slowly and it was just a push. Was this an intent to severely injure (Kulikov ended up with a broken nose on the play)? I seriously doubt it. Was it an avoidable non-hockey play? Absolutely. He was in full control of his actions (not going too fast, not off balance, not affected by anyone else on the ice). He had a long enough time to assess the situation. You see a guy off balance within two feet of the boards and you’re staring at his numbers for two seconds, you don’t push him. Marchand got 5 minutes for being Marchand and the call on the ice was fully justified.