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A lot of talk over the weekend about the Bruins' Milan Lucic hit on Sabres' goaltender Ryan Miller on Saturday. Video in case you missed it:
Lucic was penalized for charging on this play. Lucic did have a meeting with Shanahan about this, but no suspension came of it.
I believe that is the right decision. Don't get me wrong, I whole-heartedly agree with Miller's characterization that this was "gutless" and I love that he was willing to use the phrase "piece of s**t" to describe Lucic. Furthermore, I think Lucic is lying through his teeth with his justification of "I did everything I could just to brace myself. Like [Miller] said, I have 50 pounds on him. So that's probably why he might've got the worst of it."
On the debate of whether or not goaltenders should enjoy the protected status when roaming beyond their crease, I understand both sides of the argument. It would make for a simpler rulebook, and end the advantages goaltenders have against players with less equipment if it's clear to goaltenders their privileges end at the blue paint (doing this by changing the rules on "goaltender interference"). On the other hand, because goaltenders wear an extra 20 or so pounds of equipment, they will never be able to reach speeds of their skating counterparts (which is why goalie races are hilarious), so perhaps some added protection is in order.
But there is one thing I know for sure, Lucic's hit has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with whether or not a goaltender is "fair game" beyond the crease. Lucic could make a legal body check on an opposing defenseman in this situation, and if this were an otherwise legal body check on Miller, then perhaps the goalies-should-be-fair-game advocates could use this as an example.
But this is a textbook charging call. Lucic built speed for about 100 feet, Miller was to the puck before Lucic, by a large enough margin where he should've slowed down into the impact (as he would have to in order to avoid a charging or boarding call if hitting a defenseman). Lucic didn't stop his stride until he was just a few feet from the impact. All the elements of a charging call are clearly present. The goalies-should-be-fair-game folks would do well to not to use this incident to make their case.
And yet, these folks' reaction to this hit is probably why the NHL will never do away with the protections provided by goaltender interference rules. If the league ever did that, they just open the referees to too much criticism if they ever do have to penalize a hit on a goaltender that meets the standard of a penalty for a hit on any other player. Instantly, the penalized player will go straight to the "he's fair game" defense. If referees hesitate because of this, I'm afraid there will be a de facto higher standard on severity for penalizing hits on goaltenders in comparison to hits on skating players. If you don't believe me, there are many posts out there like this that don't recognize that this would've been a penalty against any player, not just a goaltender.
So to be like David from Seinfeld and ask myself questions and then answer them:
Did the refs get this right? Yes, a charging penatly was correct.
Was this cheap? Yes it was.
Should Buffalo have retaliated? Absolutely.
Is Lucic's explanation beliveable? Not in the least.
Should there have been a suspension? Probably not. Now on the other hand if Lucic had targeted the head, I'm sure he'dve been in for a 5 game Shanaban, but that's not the case here.
What did the wheel of justice say? "Paltry Fine: Milan Lucic has been fined the paltry amount allowed in the CBA as a result of his actions on Ryan Miller. In reviewing this play, we also took into consideration that Milan Lucic plays for the Colie's son's team, the Boston Bruins.."
Out of date because Gregory Campbell is now a Florida Panther, but still funny :).