November 15, 2011 :: 7:29pm ET Unintentionally gutless?
Tab Bamford takes a look at Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller's weekend
CHICAGO, IL -- Of course, the entire hockey world has seen Milan Lucic
and Ryan Miller collide during the first period of Saturday's game.
Miller beat Lucic to the puck, cleared it, and was subsequently
flattened. Even though Miller finished the first and second periods,
he was replaced by Jhonas Enroth to begin the third period. Buffalo
has since admitted that Miller suffered a concussion on the play.
After the game, Miller made himself available to the media and was
pointed with his comments on the play. He called Lucic "gutless," and
pointed out that Lucic has a substantial size advantage on himself.
On the other side of the ice, Boston is certainly familiar with what
happens when a netminder wanders a little too far out of the crease.
According to Roberto Luongo's logic, the Stanley Cup Finals might not
have lasted as long if Tim Thomas hadn't been as aggressive playing
the puck. In those same Finals, Thomas took it into his own hands
clear Canucks players out of the paint on a few occasions.
On Monday, Brendan Shanahan said he didn't feel that Lucic was acting
intentionally when he leveled Miller, and agreed with the on-ice call
of roughing. There would be no further discipline, no matter how much
some around the league might want it.
What we have here is a case of one team owning its style of play, and
others struggling with their identity.
The Bruins play physical hockey. From the first player on the ice to
the last guy in the press box, Boston is admittedly a team that wants
opponents to remember more than the final score when they wake up the
next day. And they're comfortable, and effective, playing that brand
Buffalo isn't without their questionable players. Is 11 days long
enough that Sabres fans forget why Patrick Kaleta missed four games?
When Kaleta "drove his head into the face" of an opponent, that's a
play that takes guts... right?
Just as they did to Vancouver in the Finals, Boston made a physical
Buffalo team feel attacked on Sunday.
Unfortunately, Miller's absence will draw more attention to a very
basic truth that all hockey players must own: you, the player, are
responsible for knowing where you are on the ice.
Despite many heated comments claiming that Lucic's conduct is "an
example of what the NHL is trying to eliminate," the focus of that
should be on Miller.
While cheap, unwarranted plays like Kaleta's headbutt are indeed
something the league has addressed (and will continue to), the mandate
must continue to be that each player is responsible for his own safety
as well as those around him.
Miller clearly braced himself for impact after clearing the puck, but
should he have been that aggressive against a player he knows has 50
pounds on him and isn't afraid of contact? Probably not. Miller's a
good enough goaltender that he could have approached that play two or
three different ways without the end result being Enroth in net
against Montreal on Monday evening.
Was Lucic unintentionally gutless? Not really. Was Miller
unnecessarily vulnerable? Absolutely.