BOSTON – Brad Marchand and the Bruins might just have pushed things over the line when it comes to his proclivity toward licking opponents as a defense mechanism.
The Bruins left winger made an all-world, short-handed play that led to what could have been the game-winning goal in an ultimate 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 at TD Garden. A controversial third-period non-call on Nikita Kucherov holding down Charlie McAvoy ended up playing a major role in the win for the Lightning. Still, all everybody was talking about afterward was a confrontation between Marchand and Ryan Callahan in the second period where Callahan kept throwing shots at Marchand’s head and the Bruins agitator eventually responded by taking a big ice cream lick of Callahan’s face.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN via email that the league will inform Marchand must stop licking the faces of his opponents. "Yes, we will be communicating with the Club. We don't expect it to happen again," Daily said in the email to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. In fact, NHL VP of hockey operations has indeed informed Marchand and Bruins GM Don Sweeney that Marchand has to keep his tongue to himself.
NHL’s Colin Campbell spoke with Boston’s Brad Marchand and GM Don Sweeney today. The League put the player on notice that his actions last night are unacceptable and similar behavior in the future will be dealt with by way of supplemental discipline.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 5, 2018
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Marchand said after the game he was responding the only way he could think to as the big, heavy-hitting Callahan kept coming at him in an exchange where he was clearly looking for a response.
“Well, he punched me four times in the face, so you know, he just kept getting close,” said Marchand. “[It was] nothing big.”
Marchand was then apprised that Callahan told the media that in his mind Marchand licking him in a heightened moment was no different than spitting in his face.
“That’s cute,” said Marchand. “Good for him.”
Certainly, Marchand isn’t going to be expected to take it like a Sedin if Callahan tries to use him as a punching bag and No. 63 knows there won’t be any sympathy penalty calls coming to his rescue in those kinds of exchanges.
Nothing was called on either player on the ice at the time of the exchange and it’s the second time in these playoffs that Marchand engaged in a public display of affection as self-defense after nuzzling up to Leo Komarov in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Marchand denied he was told by the NHL to cut it out in the first round, but one has to wonder after the cease-and-desist order that the league will change the rules to hand out penalties to players who employ it on a regular basis.
Certainly the Lightning, as a group, were irate about it Friday and said there’s no place for licking in the game of hockey.
“All I’m going to say is there is absolutely no place in our game for that,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper. “I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, I don’t. How would you feel if I walked over to you right now and gave you one big lick? Right from the chin all the way up, there’s just no place in the game for that.”
The Marchand licking incident certainly had everybody talking about it after the game and there is an element of “no publicity is bad publicity” for an NHL that wants to be trending and talked about at this time of year. But the NHL can’t be happy about players licking each other on the ice when Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean went to the extreme of framing it as a “sexual harassment in the workplace” situation. That certainly feels like a bridge too far from MacLean, but it also underscores how there’s really no place for this over-the-edge stuff in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Marchand was able to get away with it a couple of times in playoff games without any repercussions and will certainly keep his reputation intact as one of the NHL’s true agitators willing to do whatever it takes to gain an edge over his opponents. But even that has its limits in the Stanley Cup playoffs and Marchand would do well to start backing away from the licking line he’s stepped over in this postseason a couple of times.
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If Marchand won’t do that, then the sense here is that the NHL is going to do it for him after the ice cream cone lick of a Lightning player’s face.