BRIGHTON, Mass – Brad Marchand is undergoing a phone hearing with the NHL’s Player Safety Department on Wednesday afternoon for his unpenalized elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden. The Bruins All-Star is also looking at a very likely multi-game suspension as a result of the dangerous play that dazed Johansson, and knocked him right out of the game in the third period.
Bruce Cassidy confirmed the hearing between Marchand the league’s disciplinarians after Wednesday’s practice and said that he felt the B’s left winger was merely defending himself. Marchand has been the victim of a number of vicious, high hits this season that have concussed him, and he was bracing to be hit by a Devils player that he clearly saw in his peripheral vision.
“My thoughts are that I wish he had scored off the rush,” said Cassidy with a deadpan delivery on a play where contact came after he fired a shot at the Jersey net. “I felt like he just saw a Devils sweater there and he was protecting himself from contact. From there it’s in the league’s hands now. Brad has taken some hits this year, so I absolutely think a player should protect themselves if they see a hit coming. How they do that? It’s up to the league to determine whether it’s legal or not.
"He's taken some pretty severe hits in vulnerable spots, and he puts himself in harm's way because has the puck so often. He's a top end player so he's going to take his hits. So he will have to protect himself in those situations, and I think that's what he did. The one thing I will say is that I don't believe there was any intent. I don't think he had any clue which player was coming at him. He was just prepared to get hit, so he was protecting himself."
All that being said, Marchand is responsible for his high, raised elbow when it smacks into the side of Johansson’s head as he was going airborne forward. He’s not likely to get the benefit of the doubt from an NHL department that’s fined or suspended him seven previous times, but he’s also looking at five games or less because it was a phone hearing with Player Safety.
Part of the issue, in his humble hockey writer’s opinion, is that putting up a protective elbow is Marchand’s only defense in this day and age where his teammates get instigator penalties if they try to protect him from opponents taking liberties. It forces every player to take it in their own hands to put up the defenses when an aggressor is coming at them, though it seems pretty clear in this case that Johansson isn’t the type that’s going to clean Marchand’s clock after the whistle.
The safe bet is that Marchand gets a couple of games given his repeat offender status, but will still play in the All-Star game even while serving a regular season suspension as Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin also did several years ago.