Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

Haggerty: OT non-call latest instance of Marchand not getting respect he's earned

BOSTON – It’s high time that Brad Marchand starts getting a little more respect around the league.

The latest example came Monday night in the Bruins' 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden when Marchand was the victim of a non-call in the extra session on a play that could have won the game for Boston.

Marchand busted in behind the Columbus defense after taking a stretch pass and had a partial breakaway chance on the kind of play that he’s scored on in his sleep this season in the extra session. Rather than giving one of the NHL’s best goal-scorers a chance to show off his dazzling skill in the 3-on-3 OT, Pierre Luc-Dubois wrapped Marchand with both hands from behind in bear hug-type fashion and hauled down the Bruins left winger to prevent him from getting a shot off at the net.

Young referee Kendrick Nicholson got a good look at the play as it happened and didn’t call either a penalty shot (which was warranted, but probably a long shot in this situation) or a minor penalty for holding that was absolutely called for in this situation. Maybe it was an inexperienced referee simply blowing a call in a big moment, but one would hope it’s not the referees continuing to turn a blind eye toward just about anything happening with Marchand.

“Listen, they make their calls. I was more confused about, like I said, I thought there were clearly two icings that directly resulted in goals. That was disappointing to me, but life goes on,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We got our power-play opportunities; we were able to covert on one of them, so no. Hopefully, the next time we’re in overtime, a call goes our way. It’s just the way it is.”

It’s always been an uphill battle for Marchand to get the benefit of the doubt from officials, both when it comes to penalties for and against him, based on his past reputation, but that needs to start changing based on his ascension to NHL superstardom in the last few years. Marchand has 31 goals this season and only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals in the last three seasons than No. 63 for the Bruins, and he’s earned the right to get the star calls in those clutch moments in overtime.

Marchand wasn’t available for comment after the game and the reason was that he was understandably furious about the non-call and probably didn’t want to say something he was going to end up paying dearly for.

It’s time for the NHL to stop busting Marchand’s balls about embellishment and ticky-tack penalties and instead roll out for the NHL royal red carpet for the league’s best and brightest.

Can you imagine Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway in a similar instance in OT with nothing getting called after they were pulled down from behind while moving in all alone for a sure thing game-winner?

The easy answer is “no”, and it’s time for the Bruins organization to begin pushing for Marchand to get those calls and probably even to go to bat for him in those instances so he doesn’t need to keep chirping the league. The same goes for the seemingly NHL-wide habit of breaking down everything on video that Marchand does on the ice looking for the latest transgression or incident can get him in trouble. It all goes for the clear lack of “star” respect toward Marchand despite him being a back-to-back All-Star and Hart Trophy candidate.

Monday night was just the latest example in a decision that might have cost the Bruins a point in overtime, but it’s time for the NHL to start giving No. 63 the treatment the rest of the league’s best players get as the playoffs, and many more big, game-changing calls, approach for the Black and Gold.  



'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.


Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

File photo

Backes gets a shot at centering top line vs. Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. – The Bruins will switch things up a little bit heading into their important game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, and that means a new look among their forward group. 

The Bruins are bumping David Backes up to a center spot on the top line in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and pushing Riley Nash back to the third-line center spot that he’s manned for most of the season.

Certainly, Nash has done an admirable job of filling in for an injured Patrice Bergeron, but the expectation is that Backes can bring a little more of an offensive jolt, perhaps protect Marchand and Pastrnak a little bit and improve a face-off performance with the Bruins that’s been lacking a little lately. Bruce Cassidy acknowledged that on a very short list of areas where the Lightning can be exploited, their abilities in the face-off dot is one of them.

“It’s something we talked about. It’s an easy switch to go back to. Backes is fresh and Riley has played a lot of hockey lately, so maybe this will be David a little motivated being up there. They’ll probably see the top lines, so we’ll see how David responds to that. It will get David a few more looks offensively as well,” said Cassidy of Backes, who joked he thought he was going to be a healthy scratch when he didn't see his name in its normal third-line spot on the pre-practice whiteboard. “[The face-offs] are also part of it. Without [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Backes get tossed the other night, we had a tough time.

“Tampa doesn’t have very many weaknesses, but if there’s one you could sort of nitpick at it’s the face-off dot. So it’s somewhere we can start hopefully with the puck a little more than them.”

That’s what can happen when a team is missing Bergeron and his 56.9 percent win rate in the face-off circle. Backes has been good this season winning 53 percent of his draws in limited center duty while Nash is at 47.6 percent and Sean Kuraly is at 46.4 percent, so it’s pretty clear why the Bruins are struggling in the dot recently.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on an optional morning skate at Amalie Arena: