In a matter of less than 24 hours things have changed in the aftermath of the Bruins’ win over Buffalo Saturday night.
We’ve gone from thinking Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller only suffered a neck injury and Bruins forward Milan Lucic had already paid his penance with a two-minute charging penalty for his hit on Miller to finding out today that Miller actually has a concussion and Lucic has a hearing with the NHL.
TSN.ca reported Lucic’s scheduled phone call with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and the Buffalo News reported on Miller’s condition.
I do not think that the NHL will suspend Lucic. Much like Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty last March, I believe this will be deemed a “hockey play.” After all, it’s extremely difficult to stop when you’re moving as fast toward the goaltender as Lucic was — Shanahan should know that as well as anyone.
However, the league has a responsibility to protect goaltenders — many of whom, like Miller, are the backbones of their franchises. Rule 69.4 clearly states that goaltenders are not fair game and that incidental contact is permitted if there’s an attempt by the player to get out of the way. Lucic made no such attempt and instead hit Miller with full force.
No doubt the league wants to make sure Lucic is reminded of that rule and that players around the league get the message that it’s not “open season” on goaltenders. Just the threat of a potential suspension, created by the hearing, should hammer home the message.
Of course, Lucic is no stranger to NHL discipline. Last December, he was fined $3,500 for his sucker-punch on Atlanta’s Freddy Meyer. Previously, he was suspended during the 2009 playoffs. If Shanahan wants to factor that in with what he might deem a reckless play — not to mention Miller’s suddenly serious injury situation — you could see a one-game ban for Lucic.
I wouldn’t go that far at this point. Should the league’s general managers want to bring up a potential “roughing the goaltender” penalty or suspension to protect netminders like quarterbacks, well then that’s a whole other story. For now, a warning to Lucic and the rest of the league’s would-be goalie-crushers should suffice.