Boston Bruins Colin Miller Making His Mark


Sep 20, 2015; Providence,RI, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Sergey Kalinin (51) crashes the net as Boston Bruins defenseman Colin Miller (48) checks during the first period at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Lost a bit in the limelight of newcomer defenseman Matt Irwin‘s grand two-goal entrance to the Boston Bruins in the team’s exhibition opener Sept. 20 was an excellent all-around game turned in by fellow incoming blueliner Colin Miller.

Both Irwin, 27, signed as a free agent in July, and the youngster Miller are competing for roster spots on a defense that lost Dougie Hamilton to trade over the summer and veteran Dennis Seidenberg to an injury sustained in captain’s practices that will keep him out two months.

Miller shined in the Bruins’ 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils in Providence, showcasing his dazzling speed and ability to bring the puck quickly up ice, powerplay poise, and monster shot from the point to go with a heavy hip check on defense.

A right shot, Miller, 6’0”, 181 lbs, also put up a powerplay assist with a nice fake and feed from the blueline to Ryan Spooner, who sent a great pass across to Irwin where he fired it home sneaking in from the left point.

While Irwin had a highlight game with eight shots on top of his two goals, Miller was a standout in his own right. “Good showings for Colin Miller and Irwin tonight,” tweeted the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.

Sep 20, 2015; Providence,RI, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Irwin (52) knocks the puck away from New Jersey Devils center Adam Henrique (14) during the second period at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Miller’s fast wheels and bomb from the point, which won him both fastest skater and hardest shot in the AHL all-star competition last season, stood out in the game and practice. “The 22-year old defenseman acquired in the Milan Lucic trade with Los Angeles has some impressive tools that pop out even in breakout and shooting drills,” CSNNE added. “Miller has versatile skating speed and mobility and showed multiple, creative ways to break out of forecheck pressure while the B’s defensemen were practicing the breakout. Miller was easily avoiding the attackers and hitting the first pass, and really showed some of the skills that impressed [B’s assistant GM] John Ferguson Jr. so much while watching him in the AHL last season. The booming shot is also part of the overall package.”

Bruins President Cam Neely and GM Don Sweeney talked up Miller in the media on occasion over the summer and seemed to be chomping at the bit to see him play. Expectation also rose among fans when word of his feats in the AHL showcase filtered around after the trade.

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Now the time has arrived, and Miller seems to be the real deal so far.

Furthermore, with coach Claude Julien’s recent comments suggesting the B’s may keep eight defensemen on the roster this season, coupled with changes in the team’s system toward a quicker pace and more frequent four-man attacks to keep up with modern NHL speed and skill trends, Miller’s game would seem to fit right in.   

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  • Add the loss of Hamilton, who notched 42 points last year, and the B’s are in need of a puck mover to complement Torey Krug. The new free-wheeling 3-on-3 overtime also is well-suited for Miller’s speed.

    Los Angeles’ 5th round pick in 2012, Miller has also put in his time maturing in the AHL — an experience the Bruins like to see their prospects go through. After serving as captain for his hometown OHL team Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, where he racked up 20 goals and 55 points in 54 games his last junior season in 2012-13, he joined the Kings’ AHL affiliate Manchester in 2013-14 and finished with a modest 17 points in 65 games. He exploded last season, leading the league in goals by defensemen with 19 along with 52 points, 82 PIMs and a +11 in 70 games. He added 10 points and a whopping +12 in 19 playoff games.

    His confidence and production grew markedly playing in the Kings system, which has a strong team approach that Miller’s new bosses appreciate. He was also paired with veteran NHL defensive defenseman Jeff Schultz last season. “I think the Kings’ system of the team as opposed to the individuals has helped out,” Manchester coach Mike Stothers told in March. “He’s another year older, more mature, and I think he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with the league. It makes a world of difference. That’s the beauty of the American Hockey League. Before you go up to the NHL you have to learn your craft here. It’s a process and it takes some time. Some guys find that comfort level like [Miller] has and they just take off. I think that’s where his natural abilities kind of separate him from maybe some of the other players around the league.”

    With Seidenberg injured, it’s a chance for new B’s like Miller and Irwin to step up and Sweeney has said since camp began that opportunities are there for players if they really grab them. Miller has a good shot if he continues to play the way he has.

    “Some guys find that comfort level like [Miller] has and they just take off. I think that’s where his natural abilities kind of separate him from maybe some of the other players around the league.” – Manchester Monarchs AHL coach Mike Stothers

    A player that seized the moment a couple years ago when he scored four goals against the Rangers in the 2013 playoffs after being recalled from Providence and never touched AHL ice again is Krug. “[You have] to realize that at any given moment, opportunity is going to be there, and you have to make sure you go out and take advantage of that,” Krug told the Bruins Blog. “I thought I was going to be in Providence for the rest of the season and go through a playoff run there with a very good team. All of a sudden, I got the call that I’m going to be playing against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just like that, it changes.”

    Miller will likely compete primarily with Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Irwin and Joe Morrow for ice time. The remaining questions may be who are the six the Bruins roll onto the ice, and who is the odd man out once Seidenberg returns. Julien has said he likes to have flexibility with versatility and depth in the lineup, so it could come down to matchups — depending on whether the Bruins are up against experienced or fast, younger squads – and, who seizes the moment.

    With seven Bruins defenders (including Seidenberg) signed to one-way contracts, and C. Miller and Morrow on 2-ways, the B’s may even be forced to move someone deeper in the season barring further injuries. Their prospect pool is also well-stocked for the future with defenders like Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril coming along well.

    In the meantime, Colin Miller seems ready to make his mark. The B’s may be wise to let him.

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