Originally written on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 11/14/11

ATLANTA - JANUARY 14: Goaltender Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on January 14, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alexander Monaghan
President

By Teravolt (Talk)

On Saturday night, Ryan Miller took a big-time hit at the hands of Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic. The hit, which was rendered at the 13:12 marker of the first period, knocked the starting goalies’ helmet off but did not immediately knock him out of the game — leading to further controversy. At this point you have likely seen the hit and offered differing opinions on the play. At no point in the rulebook does it state that Miller was out of bounds by playing the puck at the top of the circle yet viewers either feel he was either ‘fair game’ or ‘brutalized’. Certainly a hot topic.

Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, Miller is now out indefinitely with a concussion. Miller left Saturday’s game after the second period, not the first, playing over 26 minutes in the process and furthermore ignoring the NHL’s concussion protocol. If you are unfamiliar with the process, here’s the official statement from NHL.com:

In the past, a player suspected of having sustained a concussion would be evaluated by the team’s trainer or a doctor in the bench area. If a concussion was suspected, the player was moved to a quieter area for further evaluation.

So the thought process at this point is Miller either never knew he was concussed or chose to ignore the protocol. However, what interests me further were his comments to the media. The protocol would further explain that the said player needs to be “removed from the game and sent to a quiet place free from distraction so they can be examined by the on-site team physician.” Miller was neither removed nor free from distraction. In fact, he made himself immediately available to local media in his now infamous rant over Lucic’s lack of respect.

According to John Vogl of The Buffalo News, Miller waited around for the media to arrive just to rattle off expletives regarding Lucic. “However, he sat in the dressing room in a suit until the media arrived following Buffalo’s 6-2 loss.” Once again, protocol dictates he remain away from distraction which certainly includes the team’s media.

We understand that the concussion symptoms did not arrive immediately and would prefer not to argue the merits of his infliction. We’ve seen cases such the David Perron concussion in which a player immediately returns to action and plays well. Sidney Crosby played a game following his concussion. Marc Staal played the entirety of the season after his blow to the noggin. Nevertheless, he either comes out and is unavailable to the media or he stays in without a concussion. It’s that cut and dry. Nobody feeling so poorly would immediately speak to the media — that would and likely should have been disallowed by the Buffalo Sabres public relations personnel.

Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News would further explain that Miller felt worse as the game progressed, which makes sense considering he allowed three goals following the incident. Then again, he already sports a GAA hovering around 3 (2.86) so it could just be an extension to his struggles. Nevertheless, here is how Harrington explains it. From Sabres Edge:

Miller felt increasingly worse during Saturday’s game in Boston after the hit by Milan Lucic and was removed from the game following the second period by Bruins doctors under the NHL’s head injury protocol.

So he felt worse, was removed from the game and put through head injury protocol then waited for the media to immediately sound off on the incident? Something sounds a bit off.

If he wasn’t injured then the team would announce his status as healthy or even day-to-day. If he had a concussion, why wasn’t he brought to a local hospital for further examination? Considering Miller was concussed last season, the team would have made a bigger deal out of his malady opposed to saving the news for the following day amid pointing even more fingers at Lucic.

The Sabres failed to retaliate against their divisional rival and therefore took to the media in which GM Darcy Regier deflected all news from the concussion on Miller specifically to concussions in general. His vitriol, however, appears pointed at the wrong people in an issue that simply is not there. A goaltending injury due to a collision is rare at best. Alex Ovechkin is not suspended for the multitude of times he’s bowled over netminders. Neither is every opposing forward looking to crash the net who is nudged by a defender. In fact, a goalie is typically injured more for fights or pulled muscles than a forward driving the net.

Playing net is a dangerous position. Not only does a frozen piece of rubber hit you at every angle, the opposition is always bearing down on you. There are more than 30 worthy starting goalies in this league enacting a survival of the fittest mentality. Is Niklas Backstrom complaining that Josh Harding is always injured? No, because it guarantees 60 starts per season. Would Cory Schneider be ultimately hurt should he start another game more due to a minor tweak by Roberto Luongo? Again, no because backups deserve to play.

In this instance, Miller’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, might have gotten the starting nod tonight due to simply playing better. For all we know he may have came into the game to awaken a flat team that simply did not react to a fallen Miller. The ‘guilty’ party Lucic reviewed the play ’100 times’ and does not see how Miller could be concussed. From Big Bad Blog:

“I’ve looked at the hit 100 times because he said he got a concussion. I looked at it, and his shoulder hit my chest, so there was no hit to his head. His helmet came flying off, but his head didn’t hit the ice and later on in that period, one of their guys lifted [Tyler Seguin]‘s stick and threw him into the net as well, so who knows what it was? It was obviously unfortunate to hear that he got hurt on the play.”

His coach, Claude Julien, would offer a similar explanation when describing this bang-bang play from his power forward. From NHL.com:

“I saw the same thing [as Lucic explained],” Julien said. “It certainly wasn’t our plan to run him over and for what it’s worth, Looch has done the same thing to one of our coaches [assistant Geoff Ward] last year. He buries his head when he chases the puck, by the time he lifts it up, somebody’s there. Last year was a coach, this year was Miller.”

While this news doesn’t absolve Lucic, it does explain how he did not necessarily get out of the way. He is currently meeting with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan over the incident which is probably something that would not have happened if Regier did not alter the agenda. The penalty was two minutes on the ice. No match penalty, major or misconduct. In fact, if Lucic’s hit is to be reviewed, the swinging stick of Ryan Miller deserves a look as well since that could have permanently injured Lucic as well.

We should find out the ultimate verdict soon. The two-plus hour delay is actually somewhat telling at this point. Regardless, should Lucic get suspended, Does it open up a wormhole concerning goalies being on or off limits? Something certainly sounds fishy about the entire situation whether it be Lucic’s intent, Miller’s actual injury or the team’s cover-up. At this point there are no legitimate cut-and-dry facts for us to ascertain which makes this perhaps one of the season’s biggest storylines.

One thing is for sure: You’ll want to tune in the next time these two teams faceoff — Wednesday, November 23rd at 7PM EST.


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