Early in the first period, Boston's Milan Lucic blocked a shot in his own zone near the blue line. The puck bounced out from his own zone. As Lucic went to control the puck, it slid all the way down into the Buffalo zone.
Lucic skated hard after the puck, attempting to give himself a breakaway. However, Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller skated out of his crease, getting to the puck first. After Miller hit the puck to the sideboards, Lucic skated into him, making contact with his right shoulder to Miller's left shoulder. Miller went down, suffering a concussion.
Charging was called on Lucic at 13:12. This was a strange call, considering Lucic made contact with a goaltender.
NHL Rule 69 regarding Interference on the Goalkeeper states:
"In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty."
Furthermore, the rule says about contact outside the goal crease:
"A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact."
Lucic said after the game, "I was going full speed so it was pretty hard for me to put on the brakes."
Still, there does not seem to be a reasonable effort made by Lucic to avoid the incidental contact.
It is against NHL rules to check the goaltender. Additionally, doing such an action is almost a guaranteed way to cause problems. Any player who considers himself a good teammate will allow nothing to happen to his goalie.
Take too many whacks at his pads for a rebound? Not okay.
Stop abruptly in front of him and spray him with snow? Not okay.
Take a late shot on him? Not okay.
Run him over? Definitely, definitely not okay.
So, the lack of response was shocking to many, including former Sabres fighter Matt Barnaby.
Barnaby said, "I also cant believe no one jumped on Lucic. They should have all jumped him... If I was on ice I jump him. If not, Thomas gets run over. Simple."
On January 15, 1998 that's exactly what happened when Barnaby played for the Sabres. Late in a game against the Vancouver Canucks, Gino Odjick ran into Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek. As a response, Barnaby ran into Vancouver goalie Sean Burke.
Barnaby understands the concept of protecting the goalie.
The Bruins showed an example of this last season. During a game against the Dallas Stars on February 3, 2011 Boston's Andrew Ference started a fight with Andrew Burish following a late shot by Burish.
This backs Lucic's comments on his collision with Miller. "We wouldn’t accept anything like that," said Lucic. "We would have taken care of business."
Lucic's claim to being protective of his teammates is a welcoming message for Bruins players. So, if the Sabres look to run Thomas as a means of revenge, it's almost a certainty the Bruins would be ready.
The Bruins will play in Buffalo on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Just 11 days after this incident, some rough play may be expected. Among the Sabres who may step is the 6'5", 225-pound Paul Gaustad.
Though he was on the ice at the time of the incident, Buffalo's closest resemblance to an enforcer did nothing.
"I can do more," he said. "I'm embarrassed that we didn't respond the way we should have. It falls on myself. I look at myself first, and I wasn't good enough."