When you see a hockey player, at various points in a hockey game, be given multiple opportunities to dive and not do so, it should not under normal circumstances result in your feeling as though the occurrence was a pleasant surprise. But this was certainly the case with Brad Marchand in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Maple Leafs seemed to target him for a few particularly rough hits and, in the case of James van Riemsdyk, a plainly illegal if somewhat innocuous shot to the nuts. And that he didn't once flop on the ice in an attempt to draw a call was rightly considered a minor miracle.
It's hard to remember the fact that Marchand has only been in the NHL for a few years, so quickly has his reputation for dirty play and diving alike grown league-wide. He's young and, like many of his teammates, very good at hockey, which is what makes his insistence on this cheap garbage -- he'd call it "playing on the edge" or some other such nonsense -- so galling, and what makes him so much the worst.
In much the same way people have bemoaned the player Matt Cooke used to be because he was so good at everything in his own zone, seeing Marchand shoot the puck like he does and then also rely on the type of stuff for which his teammates and coaches excoriate others is sickening. It leads one to wonder, "Why does he do it?" But the answer is obvious.
The Bruins have a culture of no accountability. At the complete opposite end of how the Toronto media deals with the Maple Leafs (as inexplicable adversaries), the Bruins' fawning fanboy press corps positively swoons over everything Marchand does simply because he is, as the awful tattoo he got in the summer of 2011 reminds, a Stanley Cup "champian."
It is for this reason that every dive has passed without comment, even as those of the Montreal Canadiens are dissected like the Zapruder Film. It is for this reason that his routine attempts to injure opponents do nothing to raise eyebrows here in the Hub of Hockey, and why he is allowed to claim self-defense (as he did when he injured Sami Salo with a particularly galling lowbridge in January 2012) without anyone with a recorder saying, "What are you even talking about?"
It has gotten to the point where the neutral observer cringes every time someone approaches Marchand for a hit, because you know he's likely to either get his knees blown out when his target ducks the check, or go to the box for two minutes because Marchand acts like it damn near killed him. It's an effective weapon, I suppose, since it should be plenty to give opponents pause as they attempt to line him up, but it is nonetheless despicable, which means it fits right in with everything else the Bruins do.
The best part about this, I think, is that when people in Boston do rightly call him out for his chicanery, they are shouted down, derided, and mocked. Take, for example, the case of local TV personality Michael Felger, who called out Marchand on one of his shows for -- and I swear this is true -- being caught on camera telling Bruins trainer Donnie Del Negro, "I was trying to draw five" after lying on the ice in mock agony for some time. Plain as day. This was dismissed as "typical Felger" by the pom-pom wavers who spend most of their time up on level 9 of TD Garden, because Felger rightly has a reputation for contrarianism. But nonetheless, when presenting video evidence of a player confessing to trying to sell a call, saying that a player dove should not be dismissed as anything but the flat truth.
That it doesn't tells you just about everything you need to know about Marchand and how he's viewed in his hometown. He's bulletproof, but you know for sure that if a bullet hit him he'd drop to the ice trying to coerce a call anyway.