If you had said at the beginning of the season that Kevan Miller would play a key role in the Boston Bruins success I would have said “who is Kevan Miller?”. Honestly, before Nov 21 when Miller made his NHL debut against the St. Louis Blues I had never heard of him.
How then, did a player on nobody’s radar at the start of the season become such an important piece of the Bruins success pie? Well the answer is easy, injuries. Injuries were the reason Miller got called up in the first place, and injuries are the reason he is, over halfway through the season, a crucial player on Boston’s blue line.
The season-ending injury to veteran Dennis Seidenberg created an opportunity for one of the Bruins young defensemen to step up, and Miller has proven he is that guy.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he brings the size the team lost after the Seidenberg injury. Miller also has that toughness and good decision making in his own end that the Bruins defensemen have grown a reputation for having under coach Julien.
Although Miller does not bring much to the table (or should I say ice) offensively, he does not need to. Once Dougie Hamilton is back healthy, the Bruins will have three pretty good offensive defensemen in Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, and of course, Torey Krug. If you include the powerful slap shots of Johnny Boychuck and Zdeno Chara, Boston can easily get by with a defenseman who is more defensively minded. In fact, the chronic lower-body issues that Adam McQuaid has dealt with this season makes the defense Miller brings even more vital.
Despite being sent down to Providence on couple of occasions, the Bruins coaching staff has clearly seen what Miller has brought to the team. His time-on-ice is up there with the teams other, more established defensemen. What has really caught my eye lately though is the situations that Miller has been playing in. The coaching staff has been putting him out on the ice when the team really needs to be strong defensively. Also in the past two games against really tough opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings, he was in the game late and on the penalty kill.
Obviously Miller is not the best defenseman on the team and with other solid defensive players like Chara, Boychuck, and Krug is he really the most important player for the Bruins to get back to the Stanley Cup? Nope he is not the most important player, but I expect the players that are, like David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask to be as productive as they have shown they can be in previous years. The question is which player needs to step up when the usual suspects on the Bruins have a bad game or series, or just need help from their teammates to beat a very good team.
I believe that player, the one that unexpectedly plays a big role in the Bruins season will be Kevan Miller. Looking at his skill set: solid defensively, good decision making, toughness, not afraid to drop the gloves, good passing it fits perfectly with what this Bruins team needs. A comparison could be made to last year and the emergence of Torey Krug. Although he showed up on the radar a lot later in the season, his skill set was precisely what the team needed. They struggled getting the puck out of their own zone and lacked scoring from their blue line. This year, injuries have changed what the team needs. Losing Seidenberg for the season and other solid defensemen for parts of the season has caused Boston to be shaky at times in their own zone. The emergence of Miller and his defensive play was and will be just what the team needs to bring their defense back up to a championship level.