Miller Helps Rangers to Big Playoff Win

J.T. Miller had been a healthy scratch for the first four games of the parent New York Rangers’ playoff run, but had one of his best NHL efforts so far yesterday, when given a chance to make his NHL playoff debut in Game Five against Philadelphia at Madison Square Garden.

Skating alongside Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, Miller had an assist and a +2, as the Rangers moved to within one game of winning the series, downing the Flyers by a score of 4-2.

The +2 was Miller’s best NHL mark of the season in that department, and matched his NHL career best, and he had the primary helpout on a key second-period goal by Richards that gave the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead.  Richards had strong praise for his linemate after the game, telling the media, “He (Miller) had a lot of energy. He held onto pucks and made plays. He’s fearless. He has that type of mentality. You can kind of predict that this wasn’t going to overwhelm him because he has that type of character.  It was a good first game in the playoffs for him to jump in. He played big minutes and played an important role.”

J.T. Miller (left) and Brad Richards celebrate Richards' second-period goal in Sunday's Ranger Game Five win over Philadelphia (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

J.T. Miller (left) and Brad Richards celebrate Richards’ second-period goal in Sunday’s Ranger Game Five win over Philadelphia (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Ranger coach Alain Vigneault also liked Miller’s game, after choosing to slot Miller in for Dan Carcillo, who had been an important contributor to New York’s 4-1 victory in Philadelphia in Game Three.

“I thought he played well,” was Vigneault’s post-game assessment of Miller. “He brought us a good skill level , he did some good plays and I was just thinking he might be able to help us, and he did a good job today. He brings something else. Dan (Carcillo) brings a lot of good things, the energy and the physicality, but J.T. brings the higher skill level and protects the puck a little bit better, and I thought tonight that would help us out.”

This represents a strong bounce-back for Miller, who drew some pointed comments from Vigneault the last time he was assigned to the Wolf Pack, the first week of April.

“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis,” Vigneault said to the New York press at that point. “He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”

Good for Miller.  He was challenged and he responded the right way, and it turns out to be a good hunch by Vigneault.  I was quite frankly somewhat surprised that Carcillo was taken out, as his style of play seems to be effective against the Flyers’ aggressiveness, but it was clear from the first shift yesterday that Miller had good jump, and he looks to be gaining more and more awareness of how best to use his potent combination of size and skill.

Miller, Vigneault & Co. will go for the knockout blow Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with faceoff set for 7:30.


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