BOSTON (CBS) – You don’t hear much about Kevan Miller these days, and that is by no means a bad thing.
The stat sheet paints a bland picture. Miller has one goal, five assists, and 38 PIM in 44 NHL contests. What the statistics don’t show you is that he’s been the Bruins’ most consistent defenseman in his own end for a couple of months now.
Being a stay at home defenseman is a lot like playing offensive line in the NFL. You’re playing your best when you’re not getting noticed, save for an exceptional display of physicality. Miller is championing that role for the 2013-14 Boston Bruins.
His physicality was on display against the Montreal Canadiens on March 24, when Miller knocked two Habs out of the game on one shift. But, beyond that shift, Miller has flown under the radar as the Bruins have become the sexy Stanley Cup pick despite being an instrumental part of their success.
Last night’s game against the Maple Leafs was a perfect example of Kevan Miller being Kevan Miller. It’s unlikely that you noticed his name being called in the broadcast. Yet, despite losing the game 4-3, Miller finished a plus-2, and had a secondary assist on Patrice Bergeron’s third-period goal that sent the game to overtime.
The plus rating is becoming a trend for Miller. In fact, the last time he garnered a minus-rating for a game was in February. Let that sink in for a second. Kevan Miller hasn’t finished a game allowing more goals than his line has scored in twenty contests.
Since being called up from Providence in mid-November, Claude Julien’s trust in the rugged defenseman has grown, and that’s being reflected in his increased ice-time. Julien is universally praised for his great defensive system, but the fact of the matter is that his system doesn’t work without horses like Miller.
The defenseman that currently sits 21st on the team in points, but is being trusted to play over two minutes per contest on the penalty kill. His game makes it easy for Julien to send him out there, as the coach classified him as a player that’s, “physical, gets the puck, and makes the right plays.”
Advanced statistics provide a more accurate description of Miller. The Los Angeles native has doled out 98 hits, blocked 74 shots, and perhaps most importantly, has only given the puck away six times all season.
Miller is used to flying under the radar by now though. There wasn’t much buzz around the 6’2 defenseman when he was eighteen years old, and his name wasn’t called at the 2007 entry draft.
Then, after four seasons as a University of Vermont Catamount, he wasn’t the Belle of the undrafted Free Agent Ball like current Boston teammate Torey Krug. Miller wasn’t considered a sure thing, and had to play his way onto the Providence Bruins roster after signing an Amateur Tryout Contract.
From there Miller spent two full seasons in the AHL, and was finally called up to the show after 19 games in his fourth season. There wasn’t much hoopla for him when he got to Boston, but once he took a roster spot, there was no taking it back from him.
Bergeron, a man who knows a thing or two about two-way hockey, had nothing but praise for his teammate, saying, “Yeah, he’s been really impressive. Even in training camp I kind of noticed him a bit; how strong he was but also how committed he was to his defense and playing solid hockey. He has just been improving, he basically didn’t give many choices but to keep him. He didn’t leave any of the management a choice to go back down.”
Amid all of the relative anonymity that comes with being a defensive defenseman, there is one time that Miller’s name should be called in the coming weeks.
That’s as the recipient of the Bruins Seventh Player Award.
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Christopher Mason is an intern at 98.5 the SportsHub.