Late in the third period, Dion Phaneuf hit Kevan Miller from behind when the Bruins rookie defenseman was skating with his back to the action along the boards. Miller went face first into the boards after Phaneuf made contact and no penalty was called on the play. However, many believe that the hit from behind will no doubt result in a suspension for Toronto’s Captain.
Unfortunately, the impact of the hit was dramatically altered due to a David Clarkson slash on Miller’s right leg just before Phaneuf made contact. Clarkson’s slash forced Miller to lose his footing which dropped his head prior to Phaneuf’s hit. Had Clarkson not slashed Miller before Phaneuf hit him the hit’s impact wouldn’t have been as severe.
Phaneuf didn’t go into the corner looking to smash a rookie’s head into the boards; he’s not that type of player. However, it’s still safe to question Phaneuf’s intentions due to how much speed he was entering the corner with. There’s no doubt he was looking to hit somebody as nobody skates that fast just to come provide support for a teammate. It wasn’t a blazing speed like the all-out rushes Steve Downie is known for, but it was still a quick stride with obvious physical intentions.
Because it’s obvious Phaneuf was coming into the corner to hit Miller, he’ll likely be suspended for setting up a potentially dangerous play with the amount of speed he had along the boards. Regardless of the Clarkson slash, it was still going to be a big collision in a dangerous area on the ice, and the fact Miller had his back to Phaneuf the whole time only makes the situation worse. Unfortunately, due to the Clarkson slash it’ll likely make the suspension longer than what it would be without it because of how it dropped Miller’s head into a worse position.
This incident comes at a terrible time for the Maple Leafs as not only did it occur in a key division loss where Toronto desperately needed to gain ground on the Bruins in the standings, but it also happened right before an incredibly difficult week. The Maple Leafs’ next four opponents will see the Los Angeles Kings come to town on Dec. 11 only for the team to then travel to face the St.Louis Blues the next night. On Dec. 14 the Chicago Blackhawks will come to town after already beating Toronto once this season followed two days later by the Maple Leafs traveling to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto wasn’t going to be the favorite to win any of these games, and if they are without Phaneuf for even one of them their chances for success greatly decrease even more.
If Phaneuf is lucky enough to only get a fine then Toronto fans should consider it an early holiday gift. Unfortunately, they should probably start getting used to the fact they aren’t going to have their Captain during a week they need him the most.