November 15, 2011

Chiarelli defends Shanahan's call on Lucic

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. (Getty)

By Andrew Merritt

BOSTON – A straw poll of the league’s general managers found Tuesday morning that a majority of team bosses think Milan Lucic should have been suspended for his collision with Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller Saturday night, but Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said league disciplinary czar Brendan Shanahan told the GMs there are no changes coming to the enforcement of goalie contact.

“It’s just that Brendan wanted to make it clear, and he made it clear, that goalies aren’t fair game” Chiarelli said to a group of reporters before Tuesday night’s game between the Bruins and New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.

Chiarelli held court with reporters on the press level before the game to disseminate what was covered at a meeting of the league’s GMs Tuesday morning, with a focus on goalie contact and the controversial 1-3-1 neutral zone trap employed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Shanahan, Chiarelli said, wanted to gather the opinions of the GMs about the discipline, or lack thereof, meted out to Lucic after he took out Miller in the first period of Saturday night’s game. The burly forward raced into the Buffalo zone after a loose puck, but Miller reached it first and played it away. In the next instant, Lucic knocked Miller to the ice.

The Buffalo goaltender was able to swing his stick at Lucic’s ankles before laying down on his back for a few seconds, and Lucic drew a charging penalty on the play.

What he didn’t get was any further discipline, despite plenty of outcry both league-wide and in the Buffalo locker room, where Miller hung around to hold an 18-second conference with reporters in which he called Lucic “gutless” and “a piece of (expletive).”

Chiarelli defended Shanahan’s decision not to suspend Lucic Tuesday.

“We empower him with guidelines, and then he makes the determination,” Chiarelli said. “The hindsight game is always difficult, in hockey itself and specifically in supplementary discipline. … We feel he’s the right guy for the job.”

Chiarelli balked at the suggestion made by Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff that it’s “open season” on goaltenders. Ruff, somewhat sarcastically, told reporters in Buffalo Monday that Shanahan’s ruling means teams can hurt opposing goalies with nothing more than a two-minute penalty to fear.

“It really isn’t ‘open season,’” Chiarelli said, though even he wasn’t 100 percent sold either way on what the future will hold for skaters who make contact with goaltenders. “There’s a rule in place, and Lucic got a penalty, and my guess is that if you see that again, you’re going to see a suspension. I’m not saying that if you see that exact thing again, you’re going to see a suspension, but something like that.”

The GMs also discussed the Nov. 9 game between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, in which the Flyers repeatedly held the puck in their own end for extended stretches as the Lightning stood in formation.

“You don’t want to see what happened the other night on a regular basis,” Chiarelli said. “It wasn’t pretty to watch, but we’re aware of that trend, and we’ll keep monitoring it.”

Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman gave a defense of his club’s tactics, Chiarelli said, using insight from his playing days, to the Bruin GM’s agreement.

“Steve Yzerman made some good comments that when he was playing for the Red Wings earlier on in his career, they were run-and-gun,” Chiarelli said. “He had a boatload of points every year. It was only when they tightened up defensively that they started winning championships.”

Chiarelli also reminded reporters that while Tampa’s formation might be an extreme, it’s not exactly original or unique.

“Every team in the league has a passive neutral zone forecheck,” Chiarelli said. “Every single team. It doesn’t mean you use it all the time. The one comment I made was that in our Tampa (playoff) series), they pushed the puck like no other team. We had a high-tempo series, and they used a 1-3-1, so you can use prevent defenses, and that’s part of the game.

“I just think when you see it happen the way it did (on Nov. 9), it just didn’t look good, especially on national TV.”

Chiarelli was also asked if he expected more trades to come now that teams have a better picture of their rosters and status.

“I guess as a benchmark, usually the 20-game mark is where guys start to look at (making trades),” Chiarelli said. “There were guys chatting, but that’s all.”