By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After outshooting the Ottawa Senators 15-10 and outscoring them 1-0 in the first period Thursday, the Bruins fell flat at TD Garden.
The Bruins were outshot 16-14 the rest of the way, and lost 2-1 in a shootout, giving Ottawa sole possession of second place and the inside track on home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Against a trapping Senators team, the Bruins lacked energy, they lacked creativity and lacked speed. If you had to give one name to what the Bruins were missing, you’d call it Brad Marchand.
But Marchand watched the game from parts unknown, sitting out the first game of his two-game suspension for spearing Tampa Bay defenseman Jake Dotchin on Thursday. Marchand has now been suspended five times for a total of 14 games and fined three times in his NHL career. His status as a repeat offender had an impact on the decision to suspend him for an offense that other players have gotten away with, according to the NHL Department of Player Safety.
Marchand may have apologized to his teammates behind closed doors; he wouldn’t say. Publicly he wasn’t quite contrite.
“It was it is,” Marchand said in a three-minute media session before his teammates took on Ottawa without him. “They made their decision and I have to live with it. Now I just have to move on and get ready for the playoffs.”
Although they’ve clinched a playoff berth, the Bruins could use a couple extra points to avoid a dreaded first-round matchup with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. They got one point against the Senators and have one more regular season game against the Capitals on Saturday. When they get Marchand back, hopefully they’ll get the “win the Stanley Cup” Brad Marchand and not the “test if you’re wearing a cup” Brad Marchand on the ice.
Coach Bruce Cassidy hopes it’s the former.
“I guess time will tell. We hope so,” coach Bruce Cassidy said about whether Marchand has learned his lesson. “I hope he understands how valuable he is to this team and on the ice. But again, Marchy is a big boy. I think when these things happen, I’m sure he thinks it through, and as I said this morning, Marchy plays hard and it’s what makes him a good player and sometimes it gets the best of him. But at the end of the day we need him on the ice and hopefully he comes back from this and plays within the boundaries of the game and that’s it, and still plays well.”
No one has predicted the Bruins will be playing into June and frankly anything Boston accomplishes in the postseason will be a bonus for their transitional season. With Marchand they’re probably still not talented enough to win more than one round; without him they’re dog meat.
But they owe it to themselves and their fans to put the best team on the ice every night and maybe surprise observers. That, of course, includes Marchand being in the lineup every night rather than being punished for a Three Stooges tribute.
Coming off his breakout performance with 37 goals last season and his near-MVP turn at the World Cup of Hockey in the fall, Marchand began to earn credit as more than just a pest. Even as he worked his way into Hart Trophy consideration this season, though, he had his run-ins with the DOPS because of a slew foot on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall (he was fined) and a collision with Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman (he avoided any punishment). As far back at the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Marchand was tempting fate by throwing rabbit punches and irritating Vancouver, but he avoided League scrutiny and then he turned in a two-goal performance in Game 7.
Unpredictability is part of the package. That doesn’t mean it has to be a cornerstone of who Marchand is.
It’s a small sample size, but you can try to determine if Marchand’s teammates are disappointed with his behavior.
“I don’t want to comment on that, I really don’t, sorry,” said Bruins center David Krejci, who is an alternate captain and really should have something to say.
Defenseman Kevan Miller took the opposite tact.
“We all have his back 100 percent,” Miller said. “It’s an unfortunate play. That’s what happens sometimes when you play on the edge and he does for sure. But we’ve got his back like he’s had our back all year.”
Hopefully for the Bruins, the fifth time (if you count suspensions but not fines) will be the charm and they won’t have to have Marchand’s back too often. He’s had glorious postseasons and some that were forgettable production-wise. He’s never earned postseason punishment from crossing the line. Maybe the magnitude of the moment overwhelms Marchand’s rambunctiousness in the playoffs.
Regardless, the Bruins can’t live without him. And Marchand not only owes the Bruins his best behavior, but also owes his teammates the certainty that he will in fact, as Miller said, have their backs.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.