First it was Adam McQuaid. Then Dennis Seidenberg. The Bruins, built on defense, lost two of their best stay-at-home defensemen, forcing the call up of Kevan Miller in preparation for Thursday night’s game.
Miller, 26, a native of Los Angeles, California, made his NHL debut against one of the hottest teams in the league- the St. Louis Blues.
A product of the Vermont Catamounts, Miller turned heads with a strong NHL training camp, forcing his hand until the last possible moment before being sent back down to the AHL.
Known for his compete-level and ability to win puck battles, Miller was the perfect fit to fill in for Seidenberg; though the Bruins, who now hoist a back end compiled of Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and Tory Krug, add rookie Miller to that mix.
The Blues heavy, rugged style of play would prove to be a tough test for the new-look Boston defense.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said Miller was the easy choice at his pregame press conference. “He’s a big, strong, solid defenseman. Moved the puck fairly well, simple play,” he said of the rookie. “Again, probably his strength, his battle along the walls and in front of the net, he’s a big strong individual. I thought he got better as camp went on, more confident from playing some games at this level. So he’s got an opportunity tonight to step in and show that he can play against one of the best teams in the league.”
Miller played a solid first period of NHL hockey, logging six minutes of ice time and showing no signs of rookie nervousness. He skated well, made smart, simple passes and held his position. Miller wouldn’t back down in front of the Boston net- always a good sign from a rookie defenseman.
The Bruins went down 2-1 late in the second period, but responded quickly with Carl Soderberg goal to tie things up heading to the third period.
On the play, Miller dumped the puck in perfectly from the blue line, allowing the Bruins third line to get to work and finally tie the game on the Soderberg beauty. It was an impressive job by Miller, stopping the puck, keeping the shift alive leading to the tying goal.
“Yeah, sometimes a game goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Miller postgame of his play Thursday night. “Tonight, I think pucks were bouncing a little bit my way. Like I said, I’m not here to score too many goals, just get the puck down deep, do my job, when I can provide some offense, do that as well.”
That’s exactly what Miller did on that play, allowing the Bruins to even the score in what turned out to be one of the best hockey games on the young season.
The game was scoreless after OT and the Blues got the better of the Bruins in the shootout. Derek Roy made a few nifty dangles before roofing the puck to seal the victory for St. Louis.
It was a tough loss for the Bruins- but they played one of their best games thus far against one of the best teams in the entire league.
On miller, Bruins coach Claude Julien was impressed with his play.
“He played extremely well,” said Julien at his postgame press conference. “He’s a defensive defenseman who makes good strong plays; he did that tonight. He was strong. I really liked his game. I thought he was a poised player out there for his first real NHL game.”
The Bruins look to get back in win column Saturday, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes in a 1pm matinee at the Garden.
FROM THE ROOM