Bruins

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.  

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Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

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File photo

Bruins know they 'have to be better defensively' to close out Leafs

TORONTO – The Bruins have scored less than three goals exactly once in their playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Offense really hasn’t been an issue against a Toronto team that can’t consistently stop the Black and Gold. No, it’s much more about defense and slowing down the Maple Leafs while keeping preventable goals out of the back of their net. 

Some of it is about effectively cutting down the transition, stretch passes that Toronto likes to use to kick-start their offense, and that’s about minimizing the risk-taking offensively while also taking care not to allow leaking, sneaking opponents behind their defense. Some of it is just about good, fundamental defense as the Bruins simply didn’t play 2-on-2 situations very well on rushes from the Toronto forwards in their Game 5 loss at TD Garden. 

All of it is about holding players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nazem Kadri in check as the Bruins have done for long stretches of the series with a steady diet of Zdeno Chara greeting the Leafs franchise center wherever he goes.

“In games like that we have to be a little better defensively,” said Brad Marchand, referring to Game 5’s defeat where they scored three goals. “We can’t expect to score five goals every game, so we can’t be giving up four [goals]. If we’re a little bit better there and continue to pepper away with the shots, hopefully things will work in our favor.”

Bruce Cassidy went through each of the first three goals allowed by the Bruins in their Game 5 loss last weekend, and each of them needed better “rush defense” executed by the Bruins. The first was a simple one-man rush into the zone by Matthews, the second was Andreas Johnsson getting behind the Bruins defense before connecting with Kadri on a perfect pass, and the third was a backbreaking Tyler Bozak score from the slot after the Bruins had just scored and grabbed momentum in the game. All of them arrived via Toronto’s speed and aggressive mindset entering the offensive zone, and that’s something Boston has stifled to a much more effective degree until Saturday night.  

“They make a play up the wall where we’re normally there to contest that, slide and have the appropriate adjustment between the forward and the ‘D.’ We didn’t slide until the rush. That will be addressed and was addressed. That’s what we need to do against Toronto when we have the numbers and we didn’t do it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Then they won a puck at the net where we’re generally good there, but they got it to the net. Give them credit, they got it there. They got it to the net and won a battle by going to the dirty areas. 

“The second goal was a 2-on-2 and a good play, but still a 2-on-2. We need to defend it better from our end. From their end, it’s a nice play. The third goal was a quick up, we were a little late trying to kill it. … We were a little late in every area, we needed a save there and we didn’t get it. So those are the three goals I look at, and I look at the rush defense that could have been better.”

Given that the Bruins have scored 20 goals in the five playoff games vs. Toronto and hit the 40 shots on net three different times in the best-of-seven series, it’s about holding the Leafs down a little more effectively as they’ve done in their three wins. If the Bruins can play sound defense and once again slow down the Maple Leafs track meet on the ice, then it’s highly doubtful this series will be going back to Boston for a Game 7. 

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Bruce Cassidy looking to 'tinker' with Bruins lineup for Game 6

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruce Cassidy looking to 'tinker' with Bruins lineup for Game 6

TORONTO – After failing to close out the Maple Leafs on home ice in Game 5 and not getting off to a great start in the game either, Bruce Cassidy may end up making a change to the lineup for Monday night’s Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre. 

Cassidy didn’t really elaborate while speaking to the media after Monday’s morning skate other than to say the coaching staff is “deliberating” over the 12 forwards and six D-men, and that they may “tinker” with the lineup. 

“Right now it looks like everybody is at our disposal [from a health perspective],” said Cassidy, referencing the team’s health entering Monday night’s close-out game for the Bruins. “We’re deliberating. Everybody is healthy, so there won’t be anybody out because of health as far as I’m aware of. But we may tinker with the lineup tonight…yes.”

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The best guess here is that rookie winger Danton Heinen may be coming out of the lineup after going scoreless in the first five games (a minus-1 with just four shots on net) of this playoff series, and that it might be time for another appearance from highly skilled Ryan Donato on the third line. Certainly Donato could add a little bit more of an offensive dimension to the third line and would become an option for Cassidy to insert into the Bruins power play as well. 

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against the Maple Leafs in Game 6 based on the morning skate:  

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Donato-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

Grzelcyk-Miller

 

Rask