Regardless of the league's decision on Marchand, which eventually came in as a five-game ban for his low hit upending Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo on Saturday, the Bruins will not be changing the way they play.
Nor should they. The incident with Marchand was not typical of the way the Bruins play, and that punishment shouldn't steer them away from their successful and entertaining approach.
The Bruins have created an identity as a team that is tough to play against and just plain tough. They are a team that sticks up for each other and uses its size and toughness to its advantage. They need to be physical to be effective, and it should be heartening to their fans that they have no plans to abandon the approach that brought them to a Stanley Cup championship last spring and has made them one of the top teams in the NHL again this season.
"We're still going to go about it the same way," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after practice Monday at the Garden. "We're still going to be team tough, and I think that's what makes us such a special group because we're able to stick up for each other the way we did."
Lucic paid an unjust price for sticking up for his teammates on Saturday. He was ejected against Vancouver when it was erroneously ruled that he left the bench to join a scrum that at one point featured at least six Canucks attacking Shawn Thornton. The game misconduct was later rescinded when a video review revealed that Lucic was on the ice legally, but the damage was done.
That mistaken call no doubt stemmed at least in part from the reputation the Bruins as a team and Lucic in particular have developed in recent years for their physical style. But while being subject to the occasional bad call and some over-officiating can be frustrating, the Bruins are determined not to be swayed from employing the style they need to use to be at their best.
"We're built to be a physical team and all we've got to do is play within the rules," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The other thing is it's up to everybody to understand that if we're crossing the line and we're taking bad penalties then we deserved to be penalized. But if we're playing within the rules, it is a game of contact. So we're not going to change our style. Maybe we're the focus of the league right now because of the way we play the game, but as long as we're playing within the rules there shouldn't be any issues."
The Bruins aren't always innocent. They've broken those rules a few times, as well. Marchand is a player who frequently skirts the edge of acceptable behavior and has stepped over that line several times. But for the overwhelming majority of time, the Bruins simply play a hard but clean style of hockey. That shouldn't change, and the Bruins don't intend to let it change.
"If I decide to change my game, how effective am I going to be? It's worked for me so far," Lucic said. "The way that we play and our style and especially my style is playing hard in between the whistles and playing fair in between the whistles. Just because they're more sensitive to head injuries doesn't mean you still can't hit guys. We play in your face and that's the style that I play so it's not going to be changing any time soon."
Defenseman Adam McQuaid, who is known for his physical, stay-at-home style on the blue line, agreed.
"This is a physical sport," McQuaid said. "Especially for me, I can't change the way I play, I need to play physical. If you play within the rules, you're fine. Until they say you can't hit anybody, until they make the rule that there's no hitting, then you just play within the rules."
That's exactly what the Bruins want to hear from their players.
"Listen, we're a physical team, and we're going to be under the microscope for being that," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "But our players are generally clean. Every team has players that do dirty things, and a dirty thing is an illegal thing. It just happens. That's why penalties are in place. That's why supplemental discipline is in place. But [Marchand] was protecting himself and we're going to tell our players to protect themselves."
The Bruins have been victims far too many times in recent years, and rarely have seen justice come from a league office that suspended Randy Jones just two games for his dirty hit that sidelined Patrice Bergeron for the bulk of the 2007-08 season and didn't suspend Matt Cooke at all for his blindside cheap shot that likely ended Marc Savard's career in 2010.
Marchand's move to submarine Salo got the Bruins winger banned for five games, but Julien is most concerned about his players protecting themselves.
"We lost Patrice Bergeron for a whole year," Julien said. "We lost Patrice Bergeron three times, even in the playoffs last year late in a game on a hit, to concussions. We've got a guy who probably has ended his career in Savard. We've had some serious injuries to this hockey club, and the one thing we've taken charge of ourselves as an organization is to tell our players to protect themselves better. That doesn't means necessarily being illegal, but to protect themselves.
"We don't want any more of these Bergeron injuries," Julien continued. "We don't want any more of what happened to Savard. We want to protect ourselves. I'd rather see a guy protect himself and take a penalty than not protect himself and lose him for the year. That's my point and I'm going to keep making that point and I don't care what anybody else thinks about it. It's what we do. It's what we believe in. And we're going to protect our players."
The Bruins believe in their approach. They've seen the tangible results that finally put another championship banner up in the Garden rafters. They won't abandon it now, regardless of any outside criticism or complaints.
"They can decide what they want," Julien said. "They can say whatever they want, but everything that happens, whether it's the Zdeno Chara hit last year in Montreal, we saw how many clips of that happening to everybody else, yet the focus was on Chara. The focus is on Marchand now. Why isn't it on [Vancouver forward Mason] Raymond for last year? Why isn't it on other people? There's [Canucks defenseman Keith] Ballard on [San Jose's Jamie] McGinn, all kinds of examples, but somehow the Bruins happen to be the team that people prefer picking on and think we're the bruisers and we're the examples of the league.
"We have to live with that, but the one thing we won't do is change our style of play," Julien added. "Our team is built that way. I think we play pretty entertaining hockey. We're a fast team, a skilled team. We're also a physical team. And we're Stanley Cup champions, so I don't see why we should change."
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