Will this be when NHL throws the book at Brad Marchand?

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[UPDATE: Marchand has been given a six-game suspension by the NHL DoPS.]

At this point the NHL’s Department of Player Safety should probably have a conference room named after Brad Marchand given the amount of time they spent on conference calls with him.

He is set to be suspended yet again following his outburst late in the Boston Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. Marchand was given a match penalty for intent to injure Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, punching him in the side of the head and then smacking him with his stick as he was being escorted off the ice by an official. It completed a bizarre night for Marchand who had a much weirder (and, if we are being honest, much funnier) interaction with Jarry earlier in the game.

The DoPS announced that Marchand will have a Wednesday night hearing (via teleconference), which allows for a suspension of more than five games. While nothing is a guarantee, the DoPS typically goes above the five-game mark when an in-person hearing is offered. Otherwise, they simply would not offer it. That means Marchand is facing a potentially lengthy suspension and could leave the Bruins without two thirds of their top line for the next few games after Patrice Bergeron was injured on Tuesday night.

Marchand’s history is going to be what potentially works against him here, even more so than what he actually did. There are two things that really escalate NHL suspensions: The first is whether or not the person on the receiving end of the play was injured (not the case here). The second is the offending player’s track record.

This will be the 10th time that Marchand has been disciplined by the DoPSy since it was introduced at the start of the 2011-12 season. This will be his seventh suspension (and second this season, following a three-game slew-footing suspension in November) during that stretch to go with three different fines.

Add in a two-game suspension during the 2010-11 season (prior to the DoPS) and it will be the 11th time he has been disciplined by the league (and eighth suspension) in his career.

That is a lot.

Just limiting things to the DoPS era, no player has been disciplined more times than Marchand, and he has a commanding lead over the rest of the field in that regard.

[Related: Marchand to have in-person hearing for incident with Penguins’ Jarry]

Zac Rinaldo and Tom Wilson currently hold the second place spot with seven suspensions/fines each. The only other players to be disciplined more than four times are Nazem Kadri (six times), Raffi Torres (five times), and Gabriel Landeskog (five times).

Here is the thing about that: For whatever criticisms you want to lob at the DoPS, they do have a tendency to hit repeat offenders the hardest. And repeat offenders typically reach a point where they get the proverbial book thrown at them.

Rinaldo’s fifth suspension eventually escalated to eight games.

When Raffi Torres could not stop launching himself at opponent’s heads they literally banned him for half of a season.

Wilson received a 20-game suspension for repeated head shots in a short period of time, and even his most recent suspension (for boarding) was a very significant seven-game suspension.

Kadri was suspended for eight playoff games (an especially harsh punishment given how much heavier the DoPS weighs playoff games versus regular season games) this past season. Given the playoff-to-regular-season exchange rate that is probably the equivalent of a 12-15 game regular season suspension.

Marchand, to this point, has been able to avoid that mega-suspension. Of his seven prior suspensions none of them have been longer than five games, and even his most recent suspension this season was two games shorter than the prior suspension. That has happened two other times in his career, where his latest suspension actually decreased in games from his prior one. That is not typically how these things work based on other players around the league. Repeat offenders like Torres, WIlson, Kadri have all seen their suspensions steadily increase in games with each infraction.

One possibility for why that may not be the case for Marchand is that the other players all tend to repeat the same infractions (typically head shots). Marchand, though, has been suspended for multiple different offenses. Slew-footing (two suspensions and a fine), “dangerous trip” (one fine), cross-checking (one fine), elbowing (two suspensions), spearing (one suspension), clipping (two suspensions), and roughing (one suspension).

This presumed suspension will fall under the “roughing and high sticking” classification.

None of this even includes the time he had to be warned to stop licking people or face discipline for that.

He is a truly a renaissance man in this area.

The thing that gets frustrating here is the defense that always comes up that Marchand has to play this way because he is an agitator and “this is what he does.” He absolutely does not have to play this way. Marchand is, without hyperbole or exaggeration, one of the best, most talented, and productive hockey players in the world. If you were to start listing the best players in hockey right now you might only name 10, or maybe 15 players before you get to him. He is that good. He is an elite goal scorer. A fantastic play maker. A dominant defensive player. He is a game-changing penalty killer. Every season he is a legitimate MVP candidate.

All these antics do is hold him back and risk taking him out of the lineup for an extended period of time when the Bruins absolutely cannot afford that. With each passing offense the risk of a more significant suspension becomes greater and greater. Maybe this will be the time. That does not make the Bruins — already a top-heavy team that depends almost entirely on his line for offense — better.

NHL Rink Wrap: Laine lighting it up; Crosby now at 499 goals

laine goal
John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Tuesday in the NHL

Patrik Laine, Blue Jackets

Around the NHL, there were some upsets on Tuesday. It seemed like the Capitals might just scrap a standings point or even a win against the Blue Jackets, but Patrik Laine assisted on a Boone Jenner game-winner with just 45 seconds remaining.

That ended up being the third point of the night for Laine, who also produced two goals on the power play.

All of a sudden, Laine is zeroing in on a point-per-game, as he’s now at 24 (12G and 12A) in 25 contests.

Laine’s not quite as hot as, say, Mitch Marner right now, but he’s definitely heating up. Laine extended his multi-point game streak to four games (6G, 3A). It’s almost as if the fellow has his financial future hanging in the balance, or something.

(Greed can be good in hockey, but maybe Columbus wants to trade Laine so, uh, they can keep losing? Just saying.)

Tuesday NHL highlights

Sidney Crosby is so close to 500 career goals after scoring number 499 in a Penguins win over the Bruins from Tuesday:

Speaking of that Penguins – Bruins game …

Strange series of exchanges between Brad Marchand and Tristan Jarry. In the strange but mostly harmless moment, there was this strange bit of trolling from Marchand when Jarry tried to give a puck to a fan:

And then there’s this, which resulted in a match penalty for what Marchand did to Jarry:

Marchand’s in that zone (name it after Tom Wilson, or someone more diplomatic since they’re no longer playing, like Raffi Torres?) where the run-ins are so frequent, it’s exhausting to talk about him. Will there be a fine or suspension? Who knows, but Marchand will remain Marchand.

(Maybe stick to the amusing tweets?)

Speaking of violence, two fights broke out between the Wild and Jets after a hit:

Few expected the Senators to be able to “pour it on” against the Hurricanes, even with a rest advantage. Carolina almost came back, but still, the Sens will take it.

Your highlight of the night goes to Bobby Orr… err J.T. Miller for this coast-to-coast goal:

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Flyers announce Daniel Briere as assistant GM

If any NHL franchise can switch gears with little notice, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers. At least when they’re in fun-but-reckless mode. (One of their main modes.)

So, apply all of the “for now” caveats. During the offseason, maybe someone will have a weird dream and decide to dump Chuck Fletcher as Flyers GM. Still, at the moment, it seems like the Flyers will stick with Fletcher as GM. For better or worse.

With that in mind, we’ll see how important it is that the Flyers announced Daniel Briere as assistant GM (“special assistant to the general manager”).

First, let’s giggle at “special assistant to the general manager” having some real Dwight Schrute vibes. OK, next, the big question. Is Briere being groomed as a possible future full-fledged Flyers GM, or will this be a feel-good hire for a franchise more interested in an “aggressive retool” than something with

… Oh, I don’t know, an actual vision? Will Briere have much input, or will this be a nostalgia move where Flyers fans can point at their TVs like the Leo meme? We’ll see.

Either way, Briere and the Flyers really have their work cut out for them. Yikes.

Sidney Crosby one away from 500 goals after number 499

As mentioned above, Sidney Crosby is one goal away from 500 after scoring number 499 during the NHL action on Tuesday.

Crosby reached 499 goals in career regular-season game 1,074, so he’s a hair short of a goal-every-other-game pace overall. Of course, Crosby’s also collected an impressive 867 assists, giving him 1,366 points in those 1,074 games.

Quite astounding. Arguably inspiring, too, considering how scary concussion issues seemed for Crosby earlier in his career. As much as you can play the “what if?” game with injuries for Crosby and this era of the Penguins, it’s a small miracle he’s managed such longevity.

(His pal Patrice Bergeron inspires similar thoughts.)

Expect more insight from PHT between goals 499 and 500 for Crosby.

Report: Rask may end Bruins comeback bid, possibly retire?

Two anonymous sources told The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa that Tuukka Rask may not continue his Bruins comeback (sub required), and that retirement is a possibility.

Over four bumpy appearances with the Bruins this season, Rask allowed 14 goals and made 76 saves (2-2-0 record, .844 save percentage). At times, Rask faced setbacks stemming from hip surgery that ate up much of this regular season.

Greedily, I’d love to see more from Rask, who’s largely been underrated (or at least blamed for too many Bruins problems over the years). He’s 34, so this feels too soon. With Henrik Lundqvist’s number retired and Carey Price‘s future in doubt, the NHL’s losing some of its biggest names in net in short succession.

Wednesday’s big story

Wild-card implications for Stars, maybe Predators?

With the Wild in position to take the Central Division’s second seed, the third might come down to the Blues or Predators. So, theoretically, the Predators could find themselves closer to what the Stars are hoping to gain: a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

Of course, a wild-card push is the best-case scenario (at least short-term) for the Stars. It’s just as possible that the Stars slip out of the playoff race entirely, and end up focusing almost solely on being NHL trade deadline sellers.

Frankly, the Stars may want to trade John Klingberg in just about every scenario.

One game only means so much. Nonetheless, if this one ends in regulation, Stars – Predators could clarify various Central/wild-card races a bit.

NHL scores from Tuesday

Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4
Penguins 4, Bruins 2
Senators 4, Hurricanes 3
Devils 7, Canadiens 1
Jets 2, Wild 0
Golden Knights 4, Oilers 0
Canucks 5, Coyotes 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBCSN: Capitals’ crazy week and the questions ahead

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Capitals-Rangers stream coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Capitals enter Wednesday’s game against the Rangers with a chance to move back into a tie for first place in the East Division with a win. Somehow, though, that seems to be taking a backseat to all of the wildness that has transpired over the past few days.

So let’s just dig into all of that and try to examine it and all of the questions ahead for what has suddenly become one of the most bizarre teams in the league.

All Tom, All The Time

As you’ve probably already heard, Tom Wilson did something this week and the NHL responded by doing, well, not enough to satisfy anybody outside of Washington. It has now become the story in the NHL, and all eyes will be on him tonight as he faces the Rangers again.

The NHL is taking (much deserved) heat for allowing things to escalate the way they have in Wilson’s career, but there has to come a question as to when the Capitals will start to reach their breaking point.

It is clear that Wilson does not know where the line is and when not to cross it.

He plays a reckless style and it has already cost him 30 games in suspensions and more than a million dollars in salary throughout his career. None of that has delivered the message.

[CAPITALS-RANGERS COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Most teams that have a player like that eventually get tired of dealing with it. When Raffi Torres got his 41-game suspension (after multiple other suspensions) the Sharks finally stopped defending him (as they fiercely did the year prior following one of his other suspensions). The Penguins eventually told Matt Cooke he had to change or he could not play for them. After multiple postseason suspensions the Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri.

How long can the Capitals keep playing the victim before they themselves try to step in and change the behavior of their player?

The argument in Wilson’s favor is that he is a very good player and every team in the league would love to have him. That may very well be true. And if it is true, wouldn’t it be in the Capitals’ best interests to keep him in line so he actually stays in the lineup? Because if he continues to go unchecked he is going to cross the line again. And when he does the next suspension might take him out of the lineup for a lot longer than any of the previous lengthy suspensions did.

The Evgeny Kuznetsov situation

The latest Wilson fiasco has kind of allowed this one to slide under the radar a little bit.

But earlier this week the Capitals benched Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov for a game because they were late for a team function. The next day it was revealed they could miss even more time and that the team was “working through things” in the locker room.

Then came word on Tuesday that Kuznetsov was being added to the NHL’s COVID-19 list for the second time this season. Given that he already tested positive for COVID earlier this season that certainly creates a lot of speculation as to what happened. It is not the first time he has missed time for off-ice incidents, as he was one of four Capitals players that were sidelined for breaking COVID protocols and he was also suspended three games back in 2019. With all of that happening, as well as his sometimes inconsistent play on the ice, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun mentioned on the latest “Insider Trading” that he believes the Capitals could (emphasis on could) be willing listen to trade offers on Kuznetsov this offseason.

Given Kuznetsov’s contract, role, and impact he has made over the years that would be a rather seismic change to the roster.

That is not a change you make lightly. If you do consider it, and then ultimately do go through with it, you better be right or it is the type of move that can set you back a couple of years.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Goalie questions for the playoffs

Now for a short-term question that could have major implications within the next couple of weeks.

Which goalie is going to end up starting the playoffs?

Imagine it is the preseason, and you are a Capitals fan, and some wild eyed doctor with crazy hair and a young kid show up telling you they are from the future and that Vitek Vanecek is going to be your Game 1 starter for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pretty heavy, right?

Well it could happen! Neither Vanecek or Samsonov has really done anything to secure the starting job, and it is the single biggest question the team is facing for this year’s playoff run. Neither goalie has been bad. But neither one has really done anything to say “this is my job,” either.

Alex Ovechkin‘s status

After all of that you also have the fact that Ovechkin has played 39 seconds of hockey since April 22. He missed four consecutive games, returned for one shift on Monday, and then exited the game and did not return.

It is not really a huge concern until his status for the playoffs is in question, but given how healthy he has been throughout his career and how few games he has missed seeing him out of the lineup this late in the season has to be concerning for the Capitals.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Senators have hope for the future, but patience is required

Senators
Getty

There were seven teams that did not qualify for the NHL’s expanded 24-team playoff field this past season. Over the next few days we are going to take a look at each of them to examine whether or not they are capable of bouncing back this upcoming season. We continue today with the Ottawa Senators.

It was only three seasons ago that the Ottawa Senators were in double overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, just one shot away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

Even though it may have been a Cinderella run that came out of nowhere, it was still a very talented roster with its share of high-level players: Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Craig Anderson. It was a good team that, for the most part, was either always in the playoffs or right there in the hunt.

It all seems like an eternity ago.

Fast forward to the present day, and there is not a single player that remains in Ottawa from that 2017 roster. All of them are gone, and that seemed to be part of the plan that owner Eugene Melnyk started to outline for his scorched earth rebuild of the team back in October of 2018 (you remember that video, right?) when he said that within two years 16 of the 22 players on the roster would be new faces. Mission accomplished. And then some.

So where does that leave the Senators’ rebuild now?

Let’s dig in.

The new core

At the NHL level the two main building blocks are clearly Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot. They are the best players on the roster, are still only 21 and 23 years old, respectively, and are both already very good. They have already committed to Chabot long-term with an eight-year, $64 million contract that begins this season. Tkachuk is in the final year of his entry-level deal.

Beyond them, the current roster is very thin in terms of established players. Evgenii Dadonov was a smart pickup in free agency, while Connor Brown and Chris Tierney are very serviceable.

The key to all of this long-term is going to be the development of their recent draft picks and prospects.

Through all of their trades to overhaul the roster, the Senators stockpiled a massive amount of high picks. They had two first-round picks in 2018, three of the top-37 picks in 2019, and in this most recent draft class had an almost unbelievable six of the top-61 picks. That included four of the top-33, including three first-rounders. Two of those first-rounders were in the top-five (No. 3 and No. 5 overall).

Add in 2016 first-round Logan Brown, as well as Erik Brannstrom (the No. 15 overall pick in 2017 by Vegas, and the key part of the Stone trade) and Josh Norris (No. 19 overall in 2017 and acquired in the Karlsson trade) and there are a ton of recent first-round picks here. Not all of them will pan out. But giving yourself that many swings certainly increases your chances of connecting on a home run or two.

What could make or break all of this is the development of those top two picks this year, forward Tim Stuetzle and defenseman Jake Sanderson.

Since 1979 the Senators are just the fifth team to have two top-five picks in the same draft class. The previous four teams produced very mixed results.

• The 2000 New York Islanders selected Rick DiPietro (No. 1) and Raffi Torres (No. 5)
• The 1999 Vancouver Canucks selected Henrik Sedin (No. 2) and Daniel Sedin (No. 3)
• The 1997 New York Islanders selected Roberto Luongo (No. 4) and Eric Brewer (No. 5)
• The 1988 Quebec Nordiques selected Curtis Leschyshyn (No. 3) and Daniel Dore (No. 5)

The Canucks crushed it, and the 1997 Islanders could have crushed had they not traded each player within two years.

The Senators have given themselves a lot of swings. Let’s see how many times they connect.

The Matt Murray question

The most fascinating move of the offseason was the Senators’ dive into the crowded goalie market.

Not so much because they went for a goalie (they needed one) but because of the investment they made, acquiring Matt Murray from the Pittsburgh Penguins (for prospect Jonathan Gruden and a second-round draft pick) and then signing him to a four-year, $25 million contract. Of all the goalies that changed teams this season, this is the one that had the largest investment in terms of assets given up and salary cap commitment (no free agent goalie signed to a bigger cap hit this offseason).

It all comes down to which version of Murray you think the Senators are getting.

He still has “two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie” in big letters at the top of his resume. But he has not consistently played at that level, and there is still some question as to how good of a goalie he can be and whether or not he can return to that championship form.

If he does, then it is a big position that gets solved relatively easily. If he doesn’t, that is a big contract with a modified no-trade clause that you have to deal with.

Their other long-term goaltending option is prospect Filip Gustavsson, also acquired from the Penguins a couple of years earlier.

The outlook

This team is going to be very bad again this season, and best case scenario for a potential playoff spot is probably at least two years away.

Still, there is some reason for long-term optimism.

They have two very good building blocks in place (Tkachuk and Chabot) and they have all of the recent high draft picks that have entered the organization.

There are two things that will determine the success of this rebuild.

The first is the actual development of those prospects. If players like Brannstrom, Stutzle, Sanderson, Norris, and Drake Batherson do not pan out, then it is hard to see how this thing ever turns around anytime soon.

The second is Melnyk. His entire ownership has been one saga of chaos after another, and at some point you have to see some proof that he is going to invest and commit to building a championship caliber roster. Without that, absolutely nothing else matters.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NBCSN’s Stanley Cup Final Week: Torres’ winner, Burrows’ biting

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NBC Sports presents Stanley Cup Final Week on NBCSN, reliving classic Stanley Cup Final games and original films and shows from the past decade across seven nights. Today, we give our  memories from the the 2011 Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks.

JAMES: When you think of an indelible hit from a Stanley Cup Final, you probably conjure up memories of Scott Stevens landing a savage check on Paul Kariya. (And then you probably picture Kariya’s breath returning, and fogging up his visor.)

The Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton feels like a not-so-distant cousin to its more famous relative.

Much like Stevens on Kariya, the Rome on Horton check reverberated — and not just literally.

Consider the revenge factor to start. While Kariya scored a hat trick he couldn’t remember, Horton didn’t get to return during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Horton’s Bruins did, however, win the Stanley Cup.

Both Kariya and Horton would go on to see their careers marred by injuries. While neither hit could be considered the sole causes of such issues, both loomed over their respective careers.

Maybe the biggest difference boils down to the fates of the two hitters.

Stevens’ Devils ended up winning that series, and Stevens is a Hall of Famer and a hockey lifer.

Rome? The NHL suspended him for four Stanley Cup Final games, an unprecedented number in the league’s championship round. Rome’s Canucks lost the series, with some wondering if that hit served as the turning point. Basically any “Where are they now?” Rome story will revolve around the hit on Horton.

Rome even suffered a broken hand during the same preseason game when Horton returned to action.

When a colossal hit happens, we understandably focus on the player who received it. Those collisions affect both players, though — heck, even Stevens retired due to concussions after handing out who knows how many.

In the case of Rome’s hit on Horton, both players felt the impact for a long, long time.

SEAN: This one had everything you’d want in not just a playoff series but a Stanley Cup Final. It went seven games, went back-and-forth, and had plenty of hatred.

The ending of Game 1 was fantastic. Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas were Vezina Trophy finalists in 2011 for good reason. Their goaltending duel was fun to watch in the opening game of the series. And it took until the very end of the third period to determine a winner, thanks to a lovely play involving Ryan Kesler, Jannik Hansen, and the goal scorer, Raffi Torres:

[FULL NBCSN STANLEY CUP WEEK SCHEDULE]

JAKE: The hero from Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was Vancouver’s Raffi Torres, who scored the game’s only goal with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Canucks an early series lead against the Boston Bruins.

But the enduring story from that game was the altercation between Alex Burrows and Patrice Bergeron at the end of the first period.

Here’s a summary: Bergeron alleged that Burrows bit him. Burrows denied doing so. The league found “no conclusive evidence” that Burrows intentionally bit Bergeron. Burrows was not suspended. You be the judge:

In the next game, Burrows had three points, including the OT winner, as Vancouver took a 2-0 series lead.

But he did not escape punishment from the hockey gods.

Burrows was then held without a point over the final five games, including a -3 performance in Game 7, when Bergeron scored twice in leading Boston to a Stanley Cup championship.

***

NBC Sports presents Stanley Cup Final Week on NBCSN, reliving classic Stanley Cup Final games and original films and shows from the past decade across seven nights, beginning on Monday, June 8.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Wednesday, June 10 – NBCSN
• Skates & Plates – 4 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Vancouver vs. Boston – 4:30 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Boston vs. Vancouver – 10 p.m. ET
• 2011 Boston Bruins Championship Film – 11:30 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Boston vs. Vancouver – 1 a.m. ET
• Top 10: All-Time Records – 2:30 a.m. ET