MONTREAL, QC -- It’s been a slow start for defenseman Colin Miller, but things are starting to come together for the young blueliner in his second NHL season.
The 24-year-old Miller was a minus-5 with zero points just three games into the season while forging chemistry with new partner John-Michael Liles, and the young D-man admitted it was a tough start coming off a rookie season where his confidence took a bit of a hit in the second half of the year. But things have stabilized after the rough opening, and Miller finally broke through for his first goal of the season in Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
It was a wide point shot as Miller was losing his footing, and trying to actually hit Ryan Spooner with the puck as he crashed toward the net, that caromed off the end boards, rolled up the back of Carey Price’s pads and trickled into the net. It was certainly more trick shot than trademark big blast from the offensive defenseman, but Miller will obviously take it with points at a premium for him at this point in the season.
“I’ll take it. I don’t think that happens very often with Carey Price, so I’ll take it and move forward,” said Miller. “I’m getting shots, so if I get shots through hopefully it’ll start going in. I think I’ve definitely leveled out [my play] a little bit more lately, so I’ve got to continue that.”
As stated by Miller, he’s got 23 shots on goal in 13 games along with the goal and two points this season and it starting to piece things together as a bottom-pairing, puck-moving tandem with Liles. Certainly it’s still a learning experience for Miller in his second NHL season with zero power play time and limited ice time as a third pairing guy, and coming off a season where he was very productive offensively in the first half of his rookie season.
Clearly Miller is still working to find that balance between seeking big offense and the responsible defense required by Claude Julien, and that can become the biggest challenge for a young D-man carving out an identity at the NHL level.
“It’s been a frustrating start [with the offense] for me, but what are you going to do? You’ve got to keep trying to get to the puck at the net and keep shooting,” said Miller. “As a defenseman you’re trying to move the puck up and get it in the hands of the forwards, so there’s a little less control [at the offensive end]. I think that’s kinda where it ends sometimes.
“I’m just trying to focus more on not getting into trouble defensively, and with that it might take a little bit away from getting some points. But if that’s the case then I think Claude and the guys are okay with that.”
One thing is true for the Bruins and Miller: they’re going to need him continue raising his level of play as they heighten expectations for the D-man group, and look for internal answers rather than external trades that simply aren’t coming for veteran, puck-moving defenders.