Okay, I have a confession to make. My immediate reaction to watching Milan Lucic bowl over Ryan Miller was "Holy shit!" As in, I almost couldn't believe what I'd just seen. You just don't see goalies getting run like they did in the '70s and '80s.
But that's not my confession. My very next reaction was hoping that Miller would be shaken up enough that Enroth would be able to string at least five games together. I know, that's terrible. So for that I'm sorry.
Obviously I don't "want" Miller to be hurt. I rarely even hope other teams' players get hurt anymore. I think that comes from having kids of my own now and being able to empathize with other parents. But you sensed that something had to give, and soon. I have no idea what Miller's problem has been lately, but as he was being lit up during the Philly game (which Ruff lost because everyone knew he should've pulled Miller after the second goal), I just remember thinking he either 1) isn't getting laid anymore now that he's married, or 2) knows Enroth deserves to be starting.
That said, I was almost in shock when I heard Ruff was going with Enroth against Calgary on Nov. 4th. I mean, that was the first game of a back-to-back. As I wrote on the Buffalo News blog at some point earlier, Ruff not only should have started Enroth that Friday but on Saturday against Ottawa too if he won. Hey, Ruff's the one who always likes to ride a winner.
But I can understand why he started Miller in Ottawa. For starters, he may just not have his hand on the pulse of his team like I do. But more likely, he (correctly) realized that he could crush Miller's fragile psyche all on his own if he benched him three games in a row.
The Miller-Enroth scandal is nothing if not political. I get it. You can't just abandon the face of the franchise and his six point whatever the hell million dollar salary because some backup's putting up better numbers. Can you?
Well, thanks to Lucic we may not have to find out. Miller's injury should give all of us at least a couple weeks to determine whether Enroth is the real deal or not.
Until then, some quick thoughts on the hit itself and the fallout:
- Of course Lucic ran over Miller on purpose. That's the reason I've wanted Darcy Regier to trade for him the past two years (last year being the opportune time when Lucic had an off-year by his own admission in 2009-10)
- The Sabres' collective lack of retaliation for the hit literally left me in disbelief as I watched them become the laughing stock of the league. So, there are two potential reasons the Sabres did nothing after watching their goalie absorb the biggest cheap shot another team can throw: 1) They don’t like Ryan Miller; 2) Ruff prevented it (either implicitly or explicitly).
As for #1, I have no idea what the team thinks of Miller. If I had to guess, half probably hate him and half probably love him. That's generally the way it goes in a dressing room. But these are hockey players. By the time you're a pee wee, you're always looking for any excuse for a legitimate scrap. Especially when the game's out of reach, which it was by the end of the second period. Translation: Even if you can't stand a teammate, you're still a friggin' hockey player, goddammit!
As for #2, let me be clear here: Ruff's teams have never played with the grit required to win the ultimate prize. I don't think this is even up for debate. Most coaches don't have the luxury of getting two periods to plan their retribution. Lindy had full "slap bet" control for over two-thirds of the game, yet he allowed Barney Lucic to skate away unscathed. What. A. Pussy.
The Bruins and Sabres are simply two different teams. Boston's Cup fate was sealed the moment Nathan Horton was knocked the F out and they rallied around their fallen teammate. The Sabres did the exact opposite last Saturday night, doing their best impression of their coach and tucking and running when it was most important to suck it up and fight back.
Look, Lindy's a nice guy. I know for a fact. He was the celebrity guest at my hockey banquet when I was 15. His wife was pretty hot too, but I digress. In no uncertain terms, the Sabres don't have a rep around the league as a soft team for nothing. It begins and ends with coaching.
- As for Lucic not getting suspended for the hit, I think that was the right call. While the rules state that goalies in Miller's position are not fair game, it's a little difficult to prove Lucic intended for Miller to be concussed and miss time.
But who really cares? This works out swimmingly for the Sabres; it means Patrick Kaleta can steamroll Tim Thomas next Wednesday and only get two minutes. Yeah, yeah ... I realize he'll get 10 games from Brendan Shanahan if he does it because that's just the way shit works in the B-lo, but we've got Corey Tropp. Plus T-Pegs will pay his fine. No worries.
It's the suspense around whether the Sabres even care enough to even the score that has me intrigued.