Sat Dec 03 10:11pm EST
Saturday night saw Ryan Miller(notes) return to the lineup after missing a month with a concussion believed to be from his run-in with Boston Bruins' forward Milan Lucic(notes). You probably remember that incident.
Miller looked excellent through the first half of the game, stopping every shot the Predators threw at him. It was enough to make one wonder if, like Frogger, his only weakness was being by run over. So Jordin Tootoo(notes) decided to test that theory:
Welcome back, Ryan Miller.
First question: was that intentional? A generous read of the situation says that Tootoo was on his way to the goal when Christian Ehrhoff(notes) shoved him from behind. Unable to stop, he tried to leap Miller, as Ryan Kesler(notes) successfully did the other other night. He was nowhere near as successful.
The less generous read, however, says that Tootoo saw an opportunity to hit Miller, fully aware that sort of thing tends to throw Buffalo off their game a little, and took it. And he leapt into him. This seems the likelier read, what with Jordin Tootoo being, y'know, Jordin Tootoo.
The Sabres appear to have read this situation the second way, which leads to our second question: After being thrashed for their response the last time an opponent ran Miller, how would they respond this time? The answer: angrier and more immediately. Tootoo didn't even have time to land his leaping assault before every Sabre on the ice (including Miller) was on top of him.
Awesomeness: Just as last time, Paul Gaustad(notes) was on the ice for this, and there was no way he was waiting a week and a half to respond again. Not only does he not hesitate -- he literally shoves Ellis out of the way so that he can reign down fury on Tootoo. Dude is serious.
Tootoo was thrown out of the game, assessed a game misconduct on the play. Miller would stay in, picking up his first win since November 8 as the Sabres knocked off the Predators, 3-2.
After the game, both coaches sounded off about the incident. Unsurprisingly, they were both upset with the play, but they both saw it very, very differently.
Here's Trotz, from the Nashville City Paper:
"I wouldn't say [the call was] excessive, sensitive would probably be a better word just because of Ryan Miller and the Lucic situation," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I think they might be a little over-sensitive.
"… In my estimation, [Tootoo] launched himself to try to avoid him and that's the only way you can do that. … I really believe it was a hockey play, but it is Jordin Tootoo and it is Ryan Miller and the league's ultra-sensitive to it."
Meanwhile, coach Lindy Ruff appeared to disagree. From John Vogl of the Buffalo News:
What happened in the game is a joke. It's a joke. All it does is just prove the fact right that when I said it was open season, it appears it is open season... You get a guy that comes off a concussion, and you've got Jordin Tootoo, Jordin Tootoo, running over your goaltender? I want to see what the league wants to do with this one. It's a joke."
After Lucic escaped with no suspension, it will be interesting to see what comes of this.