Lucic's Hit On Miller

It seems like its time to talk about this hit, finally.  I have given it time to digest and really give it some solid viewing time, as well as waiting for league rulings to come through.  There isn't any part of this hit that fans of either team should be happy about.  While this may seem like a bold statement, let me just remind fans that the whole idea behind policing hits to the head is to prevent injury and specifically concussions.  

There are two things we know for sure, this was a dirty hit and Ryan Miller did suffer a concussion as a result of it.  Ryan Miller is a goalie, a goalie was given a dirty hit to the head that could have been avoided, and no suspension was given.  Fans were floored when they saw their silver medal goalie plowed to the ice and only a two minute penalty was given.  Right then and there the message was sent around the league, goalies are fair game.  

It was said by Brendan Shanahan that, Lucic's hit was not intended to injure, so therefore there was no suspension given.  Shanahan, who gave Brad Boyes a suspension earlier this year because his opponent changed directions in front of the net and he ran into him, an opponent who wasn't hurt.  Boyes who has never made a dirty hit in his career.  Yet somehow this one didn't seem worthy?  Lucic two handed Miller in the face and sent him flying after he missed a break away opportunity, this has to be enforced. Period.

Shanahan's light ruling was heard loud and clear, as the Canadiens took a run at Jhonas Enroth last night.  When this happened it should be unreasonably clear that goalies are going to have to start protecting themselves.  While Shanahan is patting himself on the back talking about how the league has half the concussions it did last year at this time, Sabres fans are focused in on the biggest missed call of the year, so far.  It is the key rule in hockey, the goalies take enough shots during the game, they don't need to be worrying about hits from players too.

While there is plenty to chew over when it comes to Brendan Shanahan, the real topic that needs to be addressed is the Sabres complete lack of reaction.  Sure, everyone piles in right after the hit takes place, but that was all that happened.  This came at a time when Miller needed his teams support more then usual, and they were no where to be found.  The Sabres have been playing soft in front of Ryan all year, but this takes the cake.  

When something like this happens a team has basically two options, run your opponents goalie, an eye for an eye which is the weaker of the two by far.  Or, they keep their heads, wait for Lucic to get back in the rotation, which is possible because he wasn't ejected.  It should have been time for Lindy Ruff to match lines using Gaustad, McCormick and Kaleta.  There needed to be a solid hit put on Lucic followed up with a fight, or at least a challenge.  When Chris Drury got his cheap shot five years ago there was a twelve man brawl at center ice.  Buffalo's most valuable player gets a cheap shot and they decide to lose by four goals instead of doing anything.

Its no surprise Enroth was ran in similar fashion the very next game! The Sabres already showed how they stand up for their goalies, they hang them out to dry.  If I were playing the Sabres I would do the same thing, the league isn't doing anything about it so you're OK there and other then your run of the mill scuffle the team isn't going to do anything.  While it is nice that the Sabres have two starting goalies this year, its not like they grow on trees.  If another player takes a run at Enroth and he gets hurt, Sabres' fans can wave goodbye to any kind of momentum during the mid season.  

The only silver lining that can be found in this situation is that Miller needed some time off.  While some thought he could play through this rough patch, he has always been the type of player where time off has done him well.  Jhonas Enroth is remarkably undefeated in games that he has started in, and Miller's injury could truly have been a blessing in disguise for both players.  Maybe we will all be patting Lucic on the back when Miller gets back in goal and brings his "A" game, only time will tell.  Until then, let's be thankful Enroth is on a heater, and maybe for once the big bodies in the Sabres could keep him out of harms way.

Tomorrow nights game against the Devils should be a really great test as they are also just coming off of a loss against Boston.  The puck drops in Buffalo at 7:30 Eastern time.  

Let's Go Buff-A-Lo!!!




George Prax's picture

First of all, there was nothing similar between the Miller hit and the Enroth hit. The Enroth hit itself was arguably worse because it was in the blue paint and it was nowhere near the puck, but at the same time, come on, it was pretty obviously an accident, Cole just didn't look where he was skating. That said, Enroth embellished a little.

As for the Miller hit, I'm kind of on the fence. I wanted Lucic to get a game or two, because he's a known hothead and from my perspective, there's no way that wasn't intentional. But at the same time, Miller made a conscious decision to come out of his crease and play the puck in front of a player streaking in at full speed. Even if Lucic could have let up, and not gotten his arms up the way he did, it's not like the guy ran him full steam in the blue paint. It's a controversial decision, but I think we all may have overreacted a little. That said, Shanahan's been dropping the ball since the season started, and I don't like it.

But again, Cole's hit on Enroth was in no way intentional.

Matt Cefalu's picture

I thought Miller made a good point that there wasn't really all that much to be done in response to the hit. However, I think when it comes to being a role player, that responsibility to provide consequence for something like that is part of the job.

Should Miller have stayed in his crease? Probably. But plenty of goalies have made that play before and have even been involved in collisions. But Lucic distinctly put his arms up when coming into contact with Miller and that's where the suspension should be enforced. I don't see how Lucic putting his arms up at the last second is any different than Chris Pronger's elbow raising just before he makes contact with an opposing player who a lot of times is significantly shorter than he is. Granted, Pronger and Lucic have different histories as players, but I think the point is still the same.

Would Miller have a concussion if Lucic didn't put his arms up at the last second and made any attempt to avoid a collision? Doubtful. It's all speculative, but we've seen plenty of similar situations with different results.

Matt Cefalu's picture

NHL Rule 42: "A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."

Yes a penalty was called and that's great. There was intent to injure there and I firmly believe Lucic should have gotten 2 games for it.