Kevan Miller's physicality both a blessing and a curse for Bruins

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Kevan Miller.

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Kevan Miller continued his run as a solid, hard-hitting stay-at-home defenseman that exudes toughness, battle in the defensive zone and a surprisingly good ability to skate for a big man known for his physicality. Injuries are always going to be a factor for Miller given the way he plays, but last season was a strong one after the Bruins made a big statement one summer ago by protecting him in the Vegas expansion draft. There can be times when Miller gets exposed if the Bruins have to ask a little too much of him, but last season he was in a good spot playing mostly with Matt Grzelcyk in a pairing that complemented both players very nicely.  

What Happened Last Year: Miller took a step back with his goal production (which is fine given that it’s not his bread and butter) by putting one biscuit in the basket last year, but he was solid throughout the season. Miller finished with one goal and 16 points along with a plus-16 in 68 games and averaged just a shade under 20 minutes of ice time per game while killing penalties, doing all the rugged grunt work in the D-zone and throwing his body around when it was needed. Miller isn’t the feared pugilist that McQuaid has become in his NHL career, but he’s still an ultra-tough guy that throws some of the heaviest hits of anybody on the Boston roster. There are times when Miller can be exploited due to some limits in his puck-moving abilities, but pairing him with a player like Matt Grzelcyk goes a long way toward addressing that potential issue.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: With Miller it’s about staying healthy and keeping him in a role where he’s not asked to do too much. The 30-year-old can get erratic with his first pass out of the defensive zone and higher caliber offensive players can take advantage of some of his mistakes, but Miller has size, strength, toughness and the ability to skate. Those things can go a long way toward erasing some of those mistakes, and he really found an excellent D-partner in Grzelcyk last season. Provided that the Bruins are able to keep him in his current role, Miller will continue to be a heavy, underrated presence on Boston’s back end. But Miller has had his share of concussion and shoulder issues over the years, and either one of those could crop up again in the future given the hard-hitting, physical nature of his job description. 

In Their Words: “[The plan is] just continue to get better. I think that’s the job of every guy in the offseason, to go back and work on some of the parts of their game that they want to get better at, and that’s to come back and help the team the best they can. So, that’s my goal for sure, and I’m sure everybody else’s is as well. I think we have a good group. I think we kind of recognized that early. There will be a lot of guys back, and I think we can build on that and come back stronger. That’s definitely the game plan.” –Kevan Miller, on his offseason plan and the hopes for next season and beyond in Boston.   

Overall Outlook: Miller is a core member of Boston’s roster, and brings the toughness, physicality and willingness to sacrifice his body defensively that’s needed for the team to continue to shut opponents down. Miller is a stay-at-home D-man that’s never going to be a power play guy or an offensive dynamo, but he’s extremely hard to play against. Those players are always worth more than whatever it says on the fancy stats bar graphs or good, old-fashioned stat sheets. Miller has made a nice NHL career for himself after being an undrafted D-man out of the University of Vermont, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue provided he can remain healthy.

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