By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Getting ragdolled by Lars Eller on TD Garden on Thursday night ice was not Bruins winger Brad Marchand's best look.
To the viewer with 2018 Cup champs merch on hand, Marchand looked weak, cowardly, opportunistic. If you need more descriptions, just check my Twitter mentions from anybody within a 100-mile radius of the government shutdown. And given Boston's history, seeing Marchand getting thrown around by somebody like Eller was probably enough to make you throw your beer-stained P.J. Stock jersey from the rafters in disgust.
However, the idea that Marchand had to hurt his team on Thursday night and drop the gloves -- taking him off the ice for at least five minutes at a critical point in the game (and for Lars Eller) -- to help massage Eller's bruised ego is pure insanity.
I mean, just think about it for a minute: The Bruins were just coming off a successful penalty kill, and were one good shot away from finally tying the playoff-feeling game up at 1-1. In no way shape or form did it make sense for Marchand to throw his team's momentum out the window to help Eller feel better about getting his ass kicked four months ago.
Capitals netminder Braden Holtby (39 saves by the night's end) had also yet to surrender a goal despite a bucket of chances by the B's, so why wouldn't the Bruins test their luck with a power-play opportunity if the Caps were willingly dumb?
Lars Eller on Brad Marchand: “Everyone saw what he is. ... There’s not a lot of integrity in his game.”
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) January 11, 2019
And surprisingly, the Bruins were not interested in hurting themselves to help their opponent settle a score.
"We’re trying to win a hockey game," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Marchand passing on a scrap with Eller this time around. "You take care of business, as Marchy did, when the game was basically decided last time. So, I thought he did – showed very good discipline. Did what he needed to do for team to help us get on the power play."
"I haven’t looked at the stat sheet but I don’t really feel the need to check proof anything. He plays you know, maybe 10, 12 minutes a night and I’m playing 20," Marchand said of his incident with Eller. "So in a one-nothing game – to go on the power play, it doesn’t make a lot of sense [to fight him], so that’s the way it is."
Oh, there's also the fact that Eller simply wasn't owed anything at that moment.
As we are wont to do, we've seen an odd reinvention of what happened on Opening Night in Washington. As if a story that featured the Bruins poop-kicked by the defending Stanley Cup champions to the tune of 7-0, with their only victory of any sort coming by way of Marchand's beatdown on Eller, needed additional reinventing to benefit the Caps.
This was another case of Marchand being a rat of the highest order, while Eller's halo was merely hidden by his helmet.
Contrary to the Internet's retelling and Washington's interpretation of this story, though, Eller was not a victim; He pimped the seventh goal of an obvious beatdown on the ice and then on his way by the Boston bench, and the entire B's bench let Eller know they were coming for him. Cassidy confirmed as much in his postgame press conference back then.
Eller had some words for the Bruins bench when that happened, too, which should have put him on high alert for the remainder of the game. The idea that you were blindsided by the team in a seven-goal hole looking to fight you after what they perceived to be an obvious slight towards their team is just silly. Like, was this Eller's first NHL game? Was he not part of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry for years? The man was there for the "I'm gonna [expletive] kill you" handshake line!
It was just that the 5-foot-9 Marchand that ended up being the one to put that plan into action -- imagine how much worse it would have been for Eller had it been Kevan Miller or Zdeno Chara handling the situation? -- and bloodied Eller.
Again, this was the reality of it all.
Believers in "The Code," which has been dead for close to a decade now, will criticize the route Marchand took to start that fight, sure. But the majority of the damage inflicted upon Eller in that fight came well after the two were more than squared up with their gloves off. (Did I mention that Eller has a five-inch height and 26-pound advantage over Marchand?) The Capitals' issues with that initial Marchand-Eller scrap are actually centered around the fact that Eller, despite his aforementioned size advantages, was woefully unprepared and physically unable to throw fists when they came his way.
So, it's a bruised ego thing, really.
That's not on Marchand.
Even if we want to believe that Marchand was picking his spot in that first fight, though, what are we to say about Eller's timing in Boston? Assuming all things are equal with "The Code" believers, there's nothing honorable about Eller trying to fight Marchand 1:17 into his shift while Eller had just jumped on the ice. It's by all means the same thing the "but respect of the game!" bed-wetters were losing their minds over back in October and again last night.
If Eller truly needed and wanted a piece of Marchand on Thursday, the Capitals should have found a better spot for him. Be it on the first shift of the night or with the game decided and eyes focused on the next night (like Marchand did in October). If and when Marchand accepts the challenge then, then sure, let's talk about what Eller is owed from a 'fair' standpoint.
But the idea that Marchand and Co. have to oblige Eller when he wants it -- and just because he wants it -- is nonsense.
...Especially when it's something Eller and his need for ego-healing revenge could have easily avoided by simply not getting absolutely tuned up by the undersized 'coward' that warned you he was coming for you the first time around.