"A little bit. Yeah. [Smirk]."
That was Milan Lucic's reponse to a postgame question about the Buffalo Sabres' lack of response following his dastardly run at Ryan Miller on Saturday night. Miller called him a "gutless piece of [feces]" for taking a run at the goalie after he had played the puck to defend a breakaway, well outside of his crease.
The following morning, the hockey world is wondering exactly who the gutless ones are after no one stepped up to Lucic after the hit.
The incident, again:
So what should the Sabres have done? Well, this isn't old-time hockey. I realize that. But you still don't run the goalie like Lucic did. Yes, Miller was out to play the puck and was fair game. But when was the last time you saw that? Lucic knew who was on the ice and knew he had few worries.
You want to see what USED to happen when you ran the goalie? Check out these dustups.
The Bruins didn't allow this stuff in the 70s (see Willi Plett and Gerry Cheevers) and the Sabres certainly got a pound of flesh in the 80s in Detroit after Tom Barrasso got run earlier in the game. Look how the Bruins and Red Wings answered. Compare that to last night. Nuff said.
From NESN, Brad Marchand and writer Douglas Flynn offered this take:
"I think depending on what line was out there, someone else might have answered the bell," Marchand said. "With a guy like Looch, who's very tough, and they had a skill line out there, no one is really going to step up to the plate. If it would have been [Cody] McCormick or somebody out there they would have said something, but we obviously feed off that. It really got the fans into it and was big for our team."
Sabres tough guy McCormick still had more than two periods to address the issue, but made no effort to confront Lucic -- not even after the Bruins put the game out of reach. And while Buffalo may not have had its toughest players on the ice at the time of the incident, they did have Gaustad out there who is an experienced fighter and a match for Lucic physically at 6-foot-5, 212 pounds.
Gaustad, to his credit, noted the lack of response from the Sabres. Via Sabres Edge:
"No, no it wasn't," said center Paul Gaustad, who was on the ice along with Vanek, Sekera, Tyler Myers and Jason Pominville. "I can do more. I'm embarrassed that we didn't respond the way we should have. It falls on myself. I look at myself first, and I wasn't good enough.
"We didn't push back. There's no reason to be scared. We had to go after it, and we didn't."
They should be embarrassed. They were timid where they should have had tenacity. They were agitated where they needed to be furious.
The whole thing reminded me of the Dan Carcillo incident with Marian Gaborik nearly two years ago, when the then-Flyers Cro-Magnon had what was labeled a "fight" with the New York Rangers' star winger. Four of his teammates were dumbstruck when this nonsense went down, with defenseman Dan Girardi later saying "I should have jumped in. Maybe it was the wrong decision, but it was the decision I made at the time."
Instead, it was Sean Avery who fought Carcillo later in the game to gain a measure of retribution.
No one on the Sabres last night manned-up like Sean Avery.
Think about that.
So why didn't we see McCormick line up with Lucic? Nick Mendola, friend of the blog in Buffalo, offers an interesting take:
As for running Tim Thomas, whatever. Boston is built to beat the tar out of teams. The Sabres aren't. Does it make them weaklings or cowards? That's your call, but my opinion is you better be just as outraged when the Sabres' Lucic makes it up to Buffalo. Zack Kassian will do the same thing, because he can back it up. Everyone needs a villain, and I'd trade half the Sabres for Milan Lucic right now.
So, the hit: Dirty? A little, but I'm not crying. There's a part of me that wonders if the Sabres lack of response in these situations isn't:
A) Ruff-driven post-Neil/Drury
It's naive not to at least explore the thought, not that we'll ever get an answer from the locker room or Miller.
Consider this: After the Lucic/Miller incident, McCormick and Lucic were on the ice together once for the rest of the game, late in the first period. Once. Granted, their lines weren't matched up by Ruff before the incident, but if you have a 6-3, 221-pound player with 142 PIMs to his credit last season, and your goalie was just bullied by the other team's power forward, don't you give him more than a single shift against the guy?
Unless, as Mendola said, it's by design?
Soul-searching moment for the Sabres. They traded for Robyn Regehr in the summer because the blue line wasn't tough enough. Do they need another move because the forwards can't stand up for their goalie? Or as Gaustad indicates, is it just a matter of the current players never allowing this to happen again?