It was a little disconcerting that the NHL's Department of Player Safety would waste its time with Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller from the Boston Bruins' game against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. It was a play that, at worst, warranted a major penalty rather than the two minutes Lucic received.
That it was being considered for additional punishment from the League conjured up the worst aspects of the supplemental discipline process: Suspending to the injury (a concussion that, frankly, may not have occurred on the play); suspending for political reasons (in this case, because a star goalie was involved); or suspending as a deterrent, ensuring that when the teams meet next Wednesday, no one's trying to steamroll a goaltender (even if just telling the teams that they'll catch hell for doing so is a deterrent enough … hey, works for line brawl games).
Luckily, none of that came into play. NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan left it at a minor penalty and chose not to fine or suspend Lucic, telling NHL.com that "while it's unfortunate that Miller was hurt I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline."
Do you agree or disagree?
Here's the play again:
If you've not read Lucic's take on the matter, Matt Kalman had it this morning from Bruins practice:
"At first, I was skating as hard as I could after the puck and I looked up and he was still in his net. And when I looked down at the puck, I was continuing on and the next thing I look up and he's coming out full speed at me," Lucic said. "Obviously it was a hard collision and I did everything I could just to brace myself. Like he said, I have 50 pounds on him. So that's probably why he might've got the worst of it. Even if you look at the video, I was cringing after the play, too, because I was winded, because it was such a hard collision. He got a good piece of me as well and that's pretty much it."
Uhhhh … sure. Obviously Milan is spot-on here. There's simply no way he could have seen Miller coming out of his crease to play the puck unless he glanced up at any point after crossing the opposing blue line. Which, according to Lucic, he didn't. Plus, he was winded! WINDED!
So we're a little cynical about Lucic's explanation. Which naturally makes us cynical that the "intent" of Lucic on this play is what got him off, apparently.
"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," Shanahan told NHL.com. "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.
Oh, c'mon Shanny.
You're right that the play didn't require supplemental discipline. You're right that the hit wasn't egregious, and may not have been injurious. But Lucic's intent was to act out his petulant frustration for blowing a breakaway and Miller was a immobile target. It's not an intentional hit on a goalie that required a suspension, but that doesn't mean it's not an intentional hit on a goalie.
This is like solving the equation despite having the math all wrong.