Orfao: Magnificent Marchand disappoints again with latest suspension

  • Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) controls the puck ahead of Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (49) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) Mary Schwalm

  • Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand, right, celebrates his goal against the Detroit Red Wings with Patrice Bergeron (37) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Detroit. Boston won 3-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Paul Sancya

  • Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand celebrates after his goal during the second period of a game in Boston on Tuesday. BELOW: Marchand (63) controls the puck ahead of Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (49) during the second period of a contest on Jan. 6 in Boston. AP photos

  • Boston’s Brad Marchand gesures during the second period of Tuesday’s game in Boston. AP

Monitor staff
Monday, January 29, 2018

There are few things in life capable of producing unabashed loyalty quite like sports.

I don’t have any children yet – sorry, Mom – but this scribe bets most parents can relate to the frustration of rooting for Boston Bruins All-Star Brad Marchand.

The 29-year-old left wing is a joy to watch for the faithful at TD Garden. Back in 2010, Marchand instantly endeared himself to fans as a skilled agitator, earning the “Nose-Face Killah” moniker en route to a Stanley Cup title as a 22-year-old rookie. He scored five goals in the last five games of the Cup final against Vancouver – including a pair in Game 7 – and the Bruins were 9-0 when he scored a goal during the surprising postseason surge.

We couldn’t be more proud.

Marchand has grown up in front of our eyes, blossoming from an irritating secondary scorer into a two-time NHL All-Star. He tallied five goals and three assists – including the tournament winner – during Canada’s triumph in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey.

Boston fans adore him, and rightfully so. There’s no way to question it: Our “Little Ball of Hate” has evolved into a world-class player.

But his ardent supporters are occasionally forced to ask themselves the same question that even the proudest parents wonder at some point during their child’s life: “How can you be so stupid?”

Marchand’s tenacity is the trademark of his career, but it comes with moments that can only be justified by blatant bias.

The Boston winger participated in this weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities, and he’s certainly deserving of the distinction. However, he should have known to step out of the spotlight.

Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak were also plenty deserving, and neither of them are currently serving a five-game suspension for the latest in a long line of questionable hits.

While Marchand established a positive reputation in Boston during his breakout rookie campaign, he also made an impression on the league office by drawing a two-game suspension for elbowing Columbus forward R.J. Umberger. He’s been fined twice and suspended five times since, including the present punishment.

It’s hard for a guy who taps on a keyboard for a living to make an inarguable judgment on Marchand’s intentions when his elbow strayed into the head of New Jersey’s Marcus Johansson on Tuesday night. It was a bang-bang play, and while it’s plausible Marchand meant no harm, even the most innocent intentions need to be accompanied with corresponding body control to earn the benefit of the doubt when the perpetrator is a regular in the NHL’s principal office.

The Bruins are riding an 18-game streak with at least one point, going 14-0-4 during the run to tie the second-longest mark in franchise history. Marchand, despite missing Thursday’s win, has been a major factor in the success. He was leading the league in scoring during the month of January at the time of his ban.

Boston’s scoring leader needs to learn, though, and he’s saying the right things.

“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” Marchand told reporters Thursday morning. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.

“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”

But we all know actions speak louder than words, and the next errant elbow could permanently taint his legacy – or worse, end someone’s career. Former Boston playmaker Marc Savard formally announced his retirement last week after an inexcusable elbow from Matt Cooke in 2010 put a halt to his playing days and paved a long road to recovery. Savard’s struggle should reinforce the reality to Marchand that those stray elbows – ill-willed or not – can affect life outside of hockey.

Marchand has become synonymous with the spoked B, and he brings far more good to the ice than bad. He’s under contract through the 2024-25 season, and by then he’ll likely be cemented among the top-10 scorers in franchise history.

Yet despite signs of maturation, Marchand far too often leaves us shaking our heads.

We’re not mad. We’re just disappointed.

(Jason Orfao can be reached at jorfao@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JasonOrfao.)