Late Monday afternoon, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan ruled not to suspend Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic for his hit on Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller Saturday night.
Shanahan released the following statement on NHL.com:
"I had the hearing because I did make an initial assessment of the play as I do with all plays, but I did have some questions for Milan and I wanted to hear directly from him...They were regarding his intent; at what point did he know there was going to be a collision; and whether or not he felt he had the time to avoid the collision. I was satisfied with his answers."
Here's the NHL for goalkeepers outside the crease:
"A goalkeeper is not "fair game" just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact 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 unnecessary contact."
Lucic received a 2:00 minor for charging. I think he should have been given a major at the time. Lucic basically says he didn't realize there was going to be a collision until it was too late. I don't buy that. If you look at the seconds leading up to the hit, his head was up as he skated for the loose puck. He skated directly at Miller making contact with his shoulder sending him spinning and flying to the ice. I think he intended to make a statement play to set the tone for the game... not to injure Miller. Add to that he has a right to compete for the puck there. He did not target or make contact with Miller's head on the play which to me is the significant factor. It was clearly beyond incidental contact as the rules state. They were correct to penalize him. I don't think he should have been suspended.
Shanahan said he thought it was unfortunate that Miller was injured on the play, but didn't think the hit rose to the level of supplemental discipline.
From a Sabres perspective, the larger issue for me has to do with the unwritten rule the Sabres didn't enforce. If someone messes with your goaltender in a game, you respond. The Sabers have called themselves out since Saturday night for their failure to do so. Assistant captain Paul Gaustad called it embarrassing. General Manager Darcy Regier essentially said as much.
If you called the Sabres soft... you were right.
The lack of response was unacceptable. Hopefully this is serves as some sort of a wake-up call to the internal leadership of the team.
When I saw the hit, it reminded me of 2007 when Ottawa's Chris Neil took out then Sabres captain Chris Drury with what was a hit to the head. The Sabres responded immediately.
They should have followed a similar course Saturday night.
Buffalo hosts Boston November 23rd. I would imagine they've circled the date.