J.T. Miller has been one of the few forwards who’s jumped off the page for the New York Rangers in recent weeks. He was streaky to start the season, but lately something’s clicked in his game and he’s suddenly a force all over the ice. Not only has he been white-hot with putting the puck in the net, he’s also been physical, and good defensively. Miller has played parts of four seasons with the club, and has been sent down whenever he’s hit a speed bump. This year’s been different for the forward; he seems to have realized his best assets as a player, and is using all of them to make an impact every night.
Burying the Puck
Miller has been displaying several different attributes in his ability to score. Not only is he shooting it past goalies, he’s doing a great job of getting open, and even using his hands to maneuver his way too empty nets. In the past, there’s been a level of hesitation in his game, this year he’s blasting the puck every chance he gets. In the Rangers recent game in New Jersey, I took note of Millers goal on a one-timer from a sharp angle. We don’t often see this shot taken, and in previous years I doubt Miller takes it himself, but his willingness to even attempt it speaks to the forwards confidence. Miller currently has eight goals in his last eight games. One detail that should humble Ranger fans about the forward is his whopping 19.3 shooting percentage. In his career he has only shot 11.7%, which indicates that the forward should see a bit of a drop off, because right now everything he touches is going in.
Still, you have to be impressed with the way he’s getting everything to the net.
Often times when people discuss the physical aspect of the game they assume that it means laying big hits. This is still a big part of Miller’s game as he does lead the Rangers in hits with 118; but a huge part of being physical also means how hard the player battles in front of the net. When the Rangers offense is stale it usually has something to do with the team not getting bodies in front. Recently Miller has been working his way there, and showing some strength. He didn’t get credit for this goal, even though it looks like he may have touched it, either way it’s the havoc that he creates that’s the key to the play.
In this past game against the Minnesota Wild, Miller was excellent, and was noticeable all over the ice. A key play that jumped out was his assist on the go ahead goal, rather than retreat out of the zone, he make a great read, intercepts a pass, and moves it quickly to Derick Brassard who has plenty of time to score.
Now don’t get me wrong this play was also made because Jesper Fast and Ryan McDonagh forced the issue, but Miller recognized the play and took full advantage, and that’s something that the Rangers have lacked in recent weeks. With Miller playing well in all three zones, the team might start to lean on him even more. Henrik Lundqvist explained that the tools are there.
Henrik Lunqvist says of JT Miller “he has everything to be a great hockey player…He is that good.”
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) February 5, 2016
Miller reminds me of Ryan Kesler, in that he’s physical, he’s has great offensive instincts, and he can be moved all around the lineup. I can’t see him continuing to produce at this rate, but I do see his game evolving consistently, and that’s all the organization can ask for.