- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
- 0 Shares
BOSTON -- It doesn't matter how often other teams complain about the Boston Bruins' style of hockey. It doesn't matter how many Bruins players get suspended if they cross the line. The defending Stanley Cup champions play a high-tempo physical game and play with an edge.
Even though the Bruins' Brad Marchand received a five-game suspension for what the NHL deemed an illegal hit on the Vancouver Canucks' Sami Salo during Boston's 4-3 loss on Saturday, the Bruins don't want Marchand to change his style of play.
Bruins coach Claude Julien, along with general manager Peter Chiarelli, have made it a point to say that Marchand was protecting himself on the play. Despite the fine and suspension, Chiarelli has no intentions of asking Marchand to change.
"Listen, we're a physical team, and we're going to be under the microscope for being that, but our players are generally clean," Chiarelli said prior to Monday's hearing. "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 no, he was protecting himself, and we're going to tell our players to protect themselves."
Many in the organization feel the Bruins have a target on their backs because of the team's reputation as the big, bad Bruins.
"Somehow the Bruins happen to be the team that people prefer picking on and think we're the bruisers and the example of the league," Julien said. "We have to live with that, but the one thing we won't do is change our style of play. Our team is built that way.
"I think we play pretty entertaining hockey. We're a fast team. We're a skilled team, but we're also a physical team. We're Stanley Cup champions, so I don't see why we should change."
The coach has a point.
With the suspension handed down on Marchand for his clipping penalty on Salo, who suffered a concussion on the play, the bigger question is whether the Bruins should change their style of play.
That won't happen.
"We're built to be a physical team and all we've got to do is play within the rules," Julien said. "The other thing is it's up to everybody to understand that if we cross the line and we're taking bad penalties then we deserve to be penalized. But if we're playing within the rules, it's 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."
It's important to note that even before Marchand received a $2,500 fine by the league for his slew-foot on Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen early last month, Julien was critical of his player's actions, saying plays like that are inexcusable.
In the past, Julien has said that Marchand has a "good rat, bad rat" mentality. When Marchand is playing the role of good rat, with a hint of slightly bad, he's at his best. If he didn't play that way, there's a good possibility the Bruins wouldn't have won the Stanley Cup last season because he wouldn't have registered 11 goals and 8 assists in 25 postseason games.
Fellow Bruins forward Milan Lucic was given a one-game suspension for his illegal hit on Zac Rinaldo during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 17. Lucic avoided suspension after he collided with Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller during a game in November.
Lucic said he's not about to change his style of play, and that Marchand shouldn't either.
"If I decide to change my game, how effective am I going to be?" Lucic said Monday morning. "The way we play and our style, especially my style, is playing hard between the whistles and playing fair between the whistles. Just because they're more sensitive to head injuries doesn't mean you still can't hit guys, and that's one thing we still do. We play in your face and that's the type of style I play, and that's not going to be changing anytime soon."
The Bruins are at their best when they play on the edge, and the team will be without one of its top players in Marchand for the next five games.
"He's a real key guy that we can count on," Lucic said. "He's become an important player for us and hopefully the league looks at it and makes the right call."
Chiarelli released a statement after the suspension was handed down, saying that he's very disappointed in the ruling.
Salo is 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds. Marchand is generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 183 pounds. He is considered a repeat offender, but in this case, Marchand's suspension shouldn't have been that long.
Either way, the decision has been made. The Canucks probably are happy with the decision, especially given the comments made by coach Alain Vigneault on Sunday, saying Marchand "plays to hurt players and in my mind, if the league doesn't take care of it, somebody else will."
OK, the league made its decision. The Bruins are not happy about it, but that doesn't mean they're going to change their style of play.
"Nope. Nope, not at all," Lucic said. "It works for us, so we're not changing."
When you're the defending Stanley Cup champions, you have the right to say that.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.