It’s no anomaly in sports for a team to have a different performance at its home facility as opposed to its away facility. So the disparity between the performance of the Boston Bruins at TD Garden as opposed to away from Causeway Street should come with little fanfare.
That disparity, however, is reversed. Which is what makes it a story. The Bruins have been far more successful on the road (15-5-3) than they’ve been at home (11-13-2) in 2015-16. The Bruins haven’t failed to pick up 50 percent of their possible points at home since 2006-07, the disastrous 82-game slate that prompted the hiring of Claude Julien. The last time the Bruins had a better record on the road than at home, however, was 2010-11, which ended with the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup title since 1972. The Bruins were no slouches at the Garden, going 24-14-3.
The 2015-16 Bruins have had too many letdowns, too many underwhelming performances at home over the pre-All-Star Break portion of the season, beginning with a 6-2 loss to Winnipeg on opening night and ending with a 6-2 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.
It’s been a frustrating team regardless of where its played, a roster of frustrating players. Among the leaders in frustration has been third-year defenseman Kevan Miller, whose battled inconsistency throughout the 42 games he’s participated in this season.
Miller’s numbers aren’t terrible. His 3-10–13 scoring line in 42 games matches the scoring output he posted through the 87-game sampling on his NHL resume entering the season. He’s among eight Bruins with a plus-five rating or higher.
But Miller’s game hasn’t reached the next level as was hoped coming back from an injury-plagued 2014-15 season that followed a strong rookie campaign in 2013-14. Miller has been prone to giveaways and breakdowns in the defensive zone. He’s been exposed while playing against top-six competition.
In lockstep with the Bruins season, Miller’s road numbers have looked much different away from Boston. Of the 16 games in which the 28-year-old has been a plus, all but four have been in road games. All six performances where he’s posted a plus-two have been away. He has seven of his 13 points on the season on the road, and is plus-15 in 19 such contests. That compares with a 1-5–6 line and minus-10 at TD Garden.
Miller still has 33 games to improve on a season that has failed to meet expectations, 15 of those games coming at home. A 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame that complements a rugged style akin to former Bruin Johnny Boychuk offers promise. As does aggregate plus-40 rating he posted through his first two NHL seasons.
After being an integral piece of the blue line corps when the Bruins won the 2014 Presidents Trophy, Miller was expected to emerge in a top-four defenseman role in 2014-15 following the preseason trade of Boychuk. He suffered a shoulder injury suffered during a fight in a game at Buffalo, the sixth game of the season, and was never the same. His season ended in February after 41 games.
A return to the form he show early in his career should translate to better results for the Bruins on their own ice.