On Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins to head to the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals.
And nobody licked anybody.
That was not a guarantee. Bruins left wing Brad Marchand licked opposing players twice this postseason.
Marchand is famously antagonistic and annoying, earning the unofficial title of the biggest pest in the NHL, a label his team has embraced. But his new strategy earned some ire off the ice, and the National Hockey League stepped in to order Marchand to knock it off.
In Game 1 of the Bruins’ first-round series, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marchand licked Leo Komarov’s neck.
“I thought he wanted to cuddle,” Marchand told reporters after the game, tongue in cheek. “I was just trying to get close to him.”
The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs in that game — Marchand had a goal and an assist — and won the series, as well.
But Marchand’s second licking wasn’t so lucky. During Game 4 of the second-round series, on Friday, Marchand lapped at Lightning forward Ryan Callahan.
The Bruins lost. Marchand was unrepentant.
“Well, he punched me four times in the face, so …” Marchand said afterward.
After that, the NHL decided it’d had enough. A league executive scolded Marchand on Saturday — giving him a tongue-lashing, as The Boston Globe put it.
The Associated Press reports that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy also gave Marchand marching orders on Sunday:
“Cassidy said before the game that he had spoken with Marchand, delivering a simple, straight-forward message: “We need you on the ice, we need you playing. If part of his M.O. is to annoy people, find a different way to annoy them. Preferably by scoring some goals, that would be the best way.”
“Afterward, Marchand shrugged off a question about his discussion the previous day with NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell.
” ‘It is what it is,’ Marchand said. ‘I think it’s pretty stupid, the whole situation, but if that’s what they want to do, it’s what they want to do.’ ”