|Penguins’ James Neal suspended 5 games for knee to Brad Marchand’s head||12.09.13 at 1:18 pm ET|
Marchand was getting up after being knocked to the ice when Neal delivered his cheap shot. Neal claimed after the game that the hit was not intentional despite video evidence that made it apparent he went out of his way to contact Marchand.
“While Neal does not kick or violently thrust his leg toward Marchand, it is our belief after reviewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player,” NHL directory of player safety director Brendan Shanahan explained in a video review of the incident. “While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact is made with Marchand’s head.”
The suspension will cost Neal $128,205.15 in lost salary, which will be donated to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
|James Neal has phone hearing for kneeing Brad Marchand in head||12.07.13 at 11:25 pm ET|
Shawn Thornton isn’t the only player who figures to be suspended for their actions in Saturday night’s game between the Bruins and Penguins, as Penguins forward James Neal will have a phone hearing for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head.
Because it’s a phone hearing, any suspension for Neal will be five or less games. Thornton’s is in person, which would allow the league to suspend him for more than five games.
Marchand had fallen to the ice after some stick work from Sidney Crosby, at which point Neal glided by and stuck out his left leg to hit him in the head.
“I was skating by him. I haven’t like seen the replay or anything so I mean I hit him in the head with my leg or my foot or my knee or shin area I don’t know,” Neal said after the game. “But I mean, he’s already going down and I guess I need to try to avoid him, but I have to look at it again. I haven’t gotten a chance to look at it.”
Asked if he intended to hit him in the head, Neal, who has twice been suspended by the league, denied it.
“I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’m going by him, I don’t get out of the way like I said,” he said. “I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”
Marchand was clearly told by the Bruins to not divulge his thoughts on the situation. Asked whether he saw the replay, Marchand happily and confidently replied, “no.” He gave the same response when asked if he had an opinion on the play.
“I can’t comment on this, guys,” Marchand said after a few questions. “I know you guys can tell I can’t comment. You know I want to, but I can’t.”
Marchand didn’t even honestly shed light on Crosby’s role in the play.
“I think I just tripped myself,” he said. “Tough skates today. Two left feet.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted that the play could have been avoided.
“It was a sequence there where I think Marchand and Sid were in it physically,” Bylsma said. “Marchand went down as Neal was skating by, and he didn’t really make an attempt to get out of the way on Marchand.”
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|Brad Marchand’s improved play pays off with goal, assist vs. Rangers||11.29.13 at 5:19 pm ET|
It’s still too early to say Brad Marchand has completely turned things around, but he has certainly been making more good things happen over the last few weeks. At times, it hasn’t translated to points, but in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers, it did.
Midway through the first period, Marchand one-timed a Zdeno Chara pass under the crossbar to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Then early in the third, he weaved through the Rangers defense before setting up Patrice Bergeron for the game-tying goal. It marked Marchand’s first multi-point game of the season, in his and the team’s 26th game played. By comparison, Marchand had five multi-point games in the first 26 games last season and four the year before.
A quick look at Marchand’s game log shows that he had two goals and three assists in his 12 games prior to Friday. Big deal, right? True, that in and of itself is not a big deal. But what could be a big deal is that Marchand has been getting chances.
He had two or more shots on goal in 10 of those 12 games. To put that in perspective, his career average is just under two per game. (Oddly enough, his goal Friday was actually his only shot on goal for the game.) And to add even more context, in the eight games prior to that stretch, he had three shots on goal total.
So Marchand had been getting looks and taking shots; they just weren’t going in. And this is where we point out that Marchand’s shooting percentage going into Friday was 7.5 percent, less than half of his 16.8 and 19.8 marks the last two seasons.
“I really think that he’s picked up his game a lot,” Bergeron said. “Obviously everyone in the last game [a 6-1 loss to Detroit], that was something that we just can’t really talk about. But for six, seven games before that, I thought he was playing really well and improving, moving his feet. Every time he does that, he creates a lot of chances for himself, but also for us as his linemates. I think he’s been playing pretty well actually.”
To illustrate Bergeron’s point about Marchand’s importance to the whole line: in shifts with Marchand on the ice, the Bruins have out-attempted their opponent in 12 of the last 13 games. In the eight games before that — the same eight in which Marchand wasn’t getting shots on goal — the Bruins out-attempted the opposition during Marchand’s shifts just once.
Marchand hasn’t forgotten how to shoot the puck. His goal Friday afternoon — a blast from the lower right circle that Henrik Lundqvist had virtually no chance of stopping — is evidence of that. So if Marchand continues to shoot, chances are more pucks will start to go in.
The biggest concern during Marchand’s early-season struggles was that he wasn’t even getting the chances. According to him, that was because he wasn’t doing a lot of the little things he needed to do to be successful. He admitted on Friday that it started to get to his head, that he started worrying about the lack of points.
“I was frustrated and worried about points and putting up numbers and stuff like that,” Marchand said. “I think I had the wrong mindset there. It was more about the things you’ve got to do to get there and different areas of the game that I had to improve.”
But now he’s in a better place. He knows he’s doing those little things, he knows he’s getting his chances, and he knows the points will follow.
“I think once I just kind of calmed down and worried about playing my game and letting everything else go, I felt a lot better.”
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘running out of race track pretty fast’||11.21.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the Bruins’ upcoming game against the Blues, the recent struggles of Brad Marchand, as well as other news from across the NHL.
Boston have been rolling as of late, winning six out of its last seven games. Despite the dominant run in November, some members of the Bruins have been slumping, namely Marchand. The 25-year-old winger has yet to really find his bearings so far this year, as he has seen a dip in his production (eight points in 21 games) while increasing his turnovers and penalties. Bruins coach Claude Julien‘s frustration with Marchand has become apparent over the last few days, as Marchand was demoted to the fourth line during Monday night’s 4-1 win over Carolina.
“[Marchand’s] just going through tough times right now as a player on the ice and he’s not helping himself at all,” McGuire said. “He is running out of race track pretty fast in terms of some of his decision-making.”
The Bruins will have a tough task in their next game, as they will face off against the Blues, who hold the third seed in the Western Conference with a 14-3-3 record. St. Louis, off to its best 20-game start in franchise history, has gotten a big boost from Alexander Steen, who leads the NHL with 17 goals.
“[St. Louis] learned a lot from their first-round loss to Los Angeles last year, where it was just a battle of attrition,” McGuire said. It was just unbelievably savage the entire series and obviously Steen is off to a great start. It’s the depth of their team. … they remind me so much of the Boston Bruins. They really do.The teams are so similar. … This is a great game you guys are going to have tonight. Unbelievable game.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, a former Bruin’s play is starting to attract attention, as Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas has been viewed as a possible candidate to the U.S. Olympic team. Thomas has bounced back from a poor start to post solid numbers over the last month (2.49 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in November).
“He’s definitely worked his way back into the discussion, I can tell you that right now,” McGuire said. “He’s back into the discussion, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make the team. One of the reasons why he’s back in the discussion, the injury to Jonathan Quick, who won’t be back until December, maybe even not until the middle of December. The other thing is Craig Anderson and Jimmy Howard have both been lukewarm … and Cory Schneider is sitting on the bench in New Jersey behind Martin Brodeur.”
|Patrice Bergeron’s line too quiet for Bruins||11.06.13 at 7:05 pm ET|
Loui Eriksson is back. Now how about some goals?
No, not just from Eriksson, but from Patrice Bergeron‘s line as a whole. Regardless of who else has been on Bergeron’s line — and there have been three different configurations so far this season — it hasn’t been scoring.
In the last seven games, Bergeron’s line, whether Reilly Smith-Bergeron-Eriksson, Smith-Bergeron-Brad Marchand or Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson, has scored a grand total of one goal. Bergeron is one of the best players in the league (arguably the best player on the Bruins), but top-six lines need to produce, and his hasn’t.
Bergeron’s third-period goal last Wednesday is the second line’s only goal since the Bruins’ 5-0 win over the Lightning on Oct. 19. It’s safe to say that Lightning game was the most complete game the B’s have played this season, and a lot of that is due to the fact that Bergeron’s line simply hasn’t been going.
Consider that Bergeron himself has been a minus player in two of the last three games and three times this season after having a negative rating in just five games total last season. Goals are being scored against the Bergeron line, but just as worrisome is the fact that it hasn’t been producing.
Sure, there are some reasons as to why. Bergeron’s coming off a few injuries, there’s turnover with Eriksson coming aboard, there have been moving parts on the wings and Marchand is in the midst of what will likely go down as one of the worst slumps (12 games without a goal) of his career. That’s no excuse for a line centered by Bergeron to be anything less than very good.
‘There have been a lot of changes, but the bottom line is that you have to find ways to do your job,’ Bergeron said. ‘It seems now that hopefully it’s going to stay [the same] and we can do some great things.’
Indeed, it does. Tuesday’s game marked the first of this season that the Bruins used the lines they had put in place in the final week of the preseason to be their lineup. Yet injuries to Carl Soderberg and Eriksson messed with that, and on Tuesday the Bruins played their fifth game of the season with the Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson line. It was the first time the trio had played together since the second period of the fourth game of the season.
While the results were underwhelming with a no-show on the scoring sheet, the line actually did play well, with the trio moving the puck well and creating chances in Eriksson’s first game back from a concussion.
Encouraging is good, but it doesn’t put points on the table. Marchand, who spent four games and a period on the third line after a demotion against the Blue Jackets last month, has just one goal through 14 games this season. Last season he’d already scored nine times through 14 contests.
Between Marchand’s struggles and Eriksson’s absence, Claude Julien doesn’t sound too surprised by the lack of offensive output.
‘You’ve got a guy that just came back from a concussion, and you’ve got another guy that hasn’t played extremely well,’ Julien said. ‘There’s a mixture there that doesn’t really [suggest] success, does it? I think it’s just a matter of getting those guys going.’
Tuesday was definitely a step in the right direction, but the B’s need their second line’s fortune to change if the team wants to have the success of years past. Remember, all three members of the line (Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Marchand) found themselves top five in the league in plus/minus two seasons ago. Those kind of numbers don’t come without putting the puck in the net.
‘I’m trying to play my game and do everything right, but production is part of my game also, and I need to find that,’ Bergeron said. ‘With that being said, it’s about bearing down when we do have some chances.’
|Brad Marchand talks Mike Napoli shirtless celebration, early season struggles||11.04.13 at 1:17 pm ET|
“Yeah, I did,” Marchand said when asked if he saw how Napoli had celebrated. “I did it first, though.”
That was the lightest moment in a conversation that centered mostly on Marchand’s underwhelming start to the season.
Playing between the second and third lines, Marchand has just one goal and three assists with a minus-3 rating through 13 games, hasn’t been his usual aggressive self and has been a turnover machine. He certainly spoke Monday like a player whose confidence has taken a hit.
“I thought I trained as hard this summer as I did any summer,” Marchand said. “I came in and things aren’t going right. It’s definitely frustrating when you can’t pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong. It just seems like everything’s going wrong right now.
“I think it’s more about effort right now and working hard. Normally when you do that and you work harder than you ever have, it will come together.”
When asked about Marchand’s game, Claude Julien was rather blunt.
“He’s not playing the way he should,” the coach said. “There’s nothing coming out of his game right now. ‘¦ He’s really struggling to find his game, and sometimes you’ve just got to work your way through it.
“Brad is a good skater, and I don’t think he’s skating as well as he can. He’s obviously much better with the puck at managing it, and he hasn’t been great at that either. I think a lot of that is a result of frustration and putting a lot of pressure on himself. It’s not making it any easier.”
Asked if Marchand’s struggles have gotten to the point where a healthy scratch could be in order, a la Milan Lucic last season, Julien laughed and was noncommittal.
“That’s something I’ll address when the time comes,” Julien said., adding: “I go day by day, and if I feel it’s necessary, trust me, I’ll do it.”
|Claude Julien says Brad Marchand’s skating, work ethic need to improve||10.28.13 at 8:58 pm ET|
Marchand was demoted to the third line in favor of Reilly Smith in the third period of the Bruins’ fourth game of the season, but he’s back on Patrice Bergeron‘s line with Eriksson out. Julien said he spoke to Marchand and that skating and work ethic are the two things he needs to improve.
“Yeah, skating,” Julien said Monday. “We talked about that, and we had a real good practice today. He seemed to have a little bit more jump. I think when Brad skates the way Brad can skate, he’s quick. He’s a real fast skater and stuff like that. If he can start using his speed and put a real good work ethic along with that, like a compete level that we know he can, just those two things alone will make a huge difference for him. Today I think he responded well to that.
“I thought he had a real good practice. He was skating better than I’ve seen him skate in a while, so hopefully he continues to work on that part of it and he’s going to be fine.”
Marchand finished second on the Bruins with 28 goals in the 2011-12 season and figured to be in line for a big season as he enters his prime with the addition of Eriksson to his line. It hasn’t been pretty so far, however, as Marchand has one goal, a minus-1 rating and has committed numerous turnovers.