Colin Miller beginning to find balance for Bruins

Colin Miller beginning to find balance for Bruins

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. 

Morning Skate: Is the NHL playoff system broken?

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Morning Skate: Is the NHL playoff system broken?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while the Bruins are finally back in Boston.  

*Larry Brooks says that the NHL playoff system is broken as it continues to “pass off mediocrity as parity.” I don’t really agree that there’s a big problem, but it will be too bad that one of the Eastern Conference’s two best teams (Boston and Tampa Bay) will be done after the second round of the playoffs.

*A pretty cool gesture from the Montreal Canadiens as a group of them wore turtlenecks during warm-ups on Saturday night prior to playing Tomas Plekanec for the first timer as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

*Congrats to the Team USA Paralympics squad for capturing another Gold Medal for the Red, White and Blue. What a great story they are.   

*Evander Kane opens up about Winnipeg, his past on social media and hockey culture as he seems to have found a place where he’s comfortable in San Jose.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are suspending their GM search until the group of available candidates can widen in the offseason. That was probably always for the best.

*The New York Islanders are getting a little weird with things here late in the season as they’re taking a look at John Tavares on the wing. Hmmm. Seems like an odd move.

*For something completely different: A great return for Bill Hader to Saturday Night Live where he revisited a number of his best characters.


Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

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Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

TAMPA – David Backes certainly didn’t escape the scary situation with an errant skate blade unscathed, of course. 

The 33-year-old limped his way to the Bruins team bus out of Amalie Arena after Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and needed approximately 18 stitches to close up the gash on his right thigh. But Backes was still able to joke about it as he exited the dressing room while knowing that it could have been much, much worse with that kind of freak accident on the ice. 

"I'll play a second period one of these days,” said a smiling Backes, who was forced out of Saturday night’s loss with the skate blade cut in the last minute of the first period and exited the Florida loss as well after catching a match penalty in the first period as well. Luckily for him, there was no structural damage to Backes’ right leg after Yanni Gourde caught him in the thigh area as both players were down on the ice around the Tampa net.

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There was a lot of blood, however, as he quickly exited the ice, sped past the bench and headed right to the Bruins dressing room with Bruins trainer Donnie DelNegro trailing right behind. 

“I went in and saw him between periods. He’s okay. There’s no structural damage. There will be concern going forward about swelling or infection, but it looks like he’ll be okay. We’ll classify him as day-to-day, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play on Monday,” said Bruce Cassidy of Backes, who actually scored the second goal of the game for the Bruins as a power play strike. “You see a guy coming off like that and you see the blood pooling up, and you’re always worried they could hit an artery somewhere. He was able to get up. That was the first good sign and he was able to be tended to quickly. 

“It is scary. But we were told it would be a deep cut that would require some stitches, and it wasn’t too dangerous.”

For now it just becomes an eventful month for Backes where he’s been suspended, tossed out of a game with a match penalty and now forced out of a game after a freak skate blade incident, but there’s no doubt he’ll return better and stronger than ever in rapid fashion as he’s done through the last two seasons with the Bruins.