Brad Marchand has not registered a point since his season-saving 2-1-3 performance in the Bruins’ Game 6 win in Toronto a week ago.
That’s three games without a point, which ties a season-high for him for droughts. The last and only other time he went three games without a point this season occurred way back on Nov. 21, 23 and 24.
Another development, if you can call it that, is that his play has seemingly gotten a little edgier in the first two games against Columbus. In overtime in Game 1, he stomped the stick of Cam Atkinson on a faceoff. He could have been called for unsportsmanlike conduct, but he refs in that game wisely let it go. He wasn’t so fortunate in Saturday’s Game 2, a 3-2 double overtime Blue Jackets’ victory. Out of a handful of players that were pushing and shoving at the end of the first period, only Marchand was called for crosschecking and was in the box for Artemi Panarin’s game-tying goal.
But when asked if he was concerned that Marchand, who has stayed on the right side of that imaginary line all season, might be getting frustrated, coach Bruce Cassidy gave an impassioned – and slightly whimsical – defense of his star winger.
“Marchie’s a competitive guy,” Cassidy said Sunday. “I think that narrative gets out there. Marchie had no penalty minutes in the playoffs before (Saturday) night. None. Zero. Leading scorer on our team. All of a sudden I’ve got people in the NHL (saying) ‘keep an eye on him.’ What are you talking about? Why are you going down this road on a guy who’s kept his nose clean?’
“Atkinson, all he cared about was his 300 bucks. We can arrange that. He said it was a clever play, so the victim of this perpetrated crime is not really upset.
“I don’t like the (crosschecking) penalty personally. Is it a crosscheck. Is it a scrum? Generally in a scrum, you take one from each side. They’ve got a guy (Oliver Bjorkstrand) grabbing (Torey) Krug and obviously wants to get him off the ice for five minutes and the ref’s going to go and break them up. So I’ve got a bit of a problem with the treatment of Marchie with certain officials. He’s earned obviously some of his reputation but not right now. He’s been clean all year. He’s been clean all playoffs. So I hope that would go away and I would hope the talk would just be about ‘Hey, he hasn’t scored in (three) games. What can we do to get him going there?’ More like (David) Pastrnak. I think Marchie’s generated, they just haven’t gone in, so that would be my answer to that part of it. But anyway, here we are with March again, talking about him and his two penalty minutes in nine games.”
While he was talking about the officiating, Cassidy was also asked if he thought there were any inconsistencies in the overtime periods. The B’s were called for two infractions and both were legitimate. The second one, Patrice Bergeron’s trip of Seth Jones, gave Columbus the power play that ended the game. But Cassidy thinks the B’s should have gotten at least one call earlier, when Bergeron was mugged trying to put home a loose puck in the first OT.
“I clearly thought Bergeron had a point blank chance when Atkinson’ stick is hooking him for three seconds. He whiffed on the first one because of it and then he got the second one off because he fought through it. To me, that’s a scoring chance, it’s an infraction, it’s a penalty, it was missed,” said Cassidy. “Now, did we commit two fouls? Yup. We were called for them. We didn’t kill the second one and that’s your ballgame. That was my beef with that one. I thought they missed an obvious call. It happens. I’m sure their coach probably thought they missed some on them and off we go. Did I think the officiating was poor? No. Not at all.”
While the extra day off gives Cassidy another day to ruminate about a few things, it was clear his team desperately needed it as it prepares for Tuesday’s Game 3 in Columbus. The players were given a full day off Sunday, other than those needing treatment. Any advice to stay away from hockey?
“Fortnite. Fortnite all day,” he cracked. “Watch the Celtics at 1. It should be a great game.”
The coach believed his fitness level shined in the overtimes – the first OT was their best period of the game – but he did think that some of the miscues they made in the game, both with and without the puck, could have been the result of mental fatigue.
“It came a good time for us,” sad Cassidy. “We had a seven-game series, high intensity, back-and-forth,so it takes an emotional toll as well. Most seven-game series do, but the way we had to come back … then we had to get ready (for this series). I think we fed of that the first night. (Saturday) night I think our natural fitness level came through for the guys but mentally, we made some mistakes we wouldn’t make if we were a little more fresh. That’s where it caught up to us.”
And that’s the biggest reason this series is deadlocked at 1-1.