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Kevan Miller proved his worth in 2017-18

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The Bruins gave him the right opportunity, and Killer crushed it

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Kevan Miller - RD

Analysis

Five seasons into his NHL career, the Bruins finally know what to expect from Kevan Miller.

The rugged defender has had some serious bumps in the road. Most of those can be attributed to two issues: 1) Persistent injuries; and 2) Long stretches of being used against high-level competition, a role which he has never been suited to fill. In 2017-18, the Bruins finally had enough blue line talent to give Miller a steady spot on the third pair, and a largely healthy Miller flourished.

Miller started the season on his off-hand, playing on the left side of the third pair with Charlie McAvoy. It quickly became clear that McAvoy could handle much more, and injuries gave way to a slew of games that saw Miller shifting between the left and right alongside stopgaps Paul Postma and Rob O’Gara.

That was until the 19th game of the year, when Matt Grzelcyk was inserted. Grzelcyk proved a capable and efficient partner for Miller, whom was enabled to remain on his natural right side for the remainder of the season. Miller and Grzelcyk formed a reliable third pair, and a confident Miller looked better than ever.

Finally put in a position to succeed, Miller showed especially well defensively. The pairing of Miller and Grzelcyk resulted in an impressive CA/60 of just 47.87. The Bruins third pair was efficient in recovering pucks and getting them moving up ice. Here’s a look at Miller’s defensive heatmap:

hockeyviz.com

Not much happening there, especially on Miller’s side of the ice.

Of course, Miller’s season wasn’t without its blemishes: He did miss a chunk of time with another shoulder issue, and like the rest of the Bruins defense, was far from perfect in the playoffs.

Brandon Carlo’s season-ending injury forced Miller to play up in the lineup in the postseason. Miller’s 2017-18 season was all about showing what he can do when given the proper assignment, and the extra minutes against top-notch competition only highlighted his limitations.

Aggregate Grade: B+

Kevan Miller is a solid third-pairing right-shot defenseman. The 2017-18 season was the first time we got to see him used as such for the bulk of the season, and he performed well. At 30 years old and entering the third year of his four-year $10m contract, Miller is a known commodity. The challenge lies in keeping him reasonably healthy and in making sure he doesn’t have to play outside his means.

SKATR Visual

Bill Comeau @billius27