New York Rangers: J.T. Miller Ready to Take Control

Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite trailing 1-0 to the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers have another gear still to hit in the playoffs. J.T. Miller is the key to finding it.

With one game in the books, the New York Rangers are down 1-0 to the Ottawa Senators in their second-round series. Though the Senators took a 2-1 decision in Game One, the Rangers managed a close game thanks to some heroics from Henrik Lundqvist.

While Lundqvist’s performance isn’t much of a surprise, the lack of offensive production from Rangers forward J.T. Miller is.

After a career-best regular season, in which Miller scored 22 goals and 56 points, he’s gone conspicuously silent in the playoffs.

The fact that the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games with almost no offensive contributions from their second-leading point scorer is a testament to their depth. Players like Michael Grabner, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg anchored a fourth line that drove play all series long.

But as the Rangers get deeper into the postseason, they need their top players to find another gear. J.T. Miller is primed to do just that.

Past Performance Indicates Future Success

Miller’s lack of production through six playoff games this season is out of character, to say the least.

During last season’s five-game lambasting at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Miller managed three points. The year before, he scored a goal and seven assists in 19 games. With just one assist in seven games this year, Miller is well below his norm.

Coupled with his improved play this year, Miller should expect some regression in shooting luck, especially given the way he engineered zone entries and chances in Game One against Ottawa.

Related Story: Rangers Must Exploit Senators' Depth Defense

Driving Play With Possession

Miller’s greatest strength as a forward has always been his assertiveness with the puck. While this sometimes gets him into Alain Vigneault’s doghouse, Miller can make plays that almost no other Ranger can.

Miller is confident with the puck on his stick and likes carrying it into the offensive zone. This tendency has the advantage of retaining possession, but also sometimes surprises defenders. Miller will make one-on-one plays that rarely happen at the NHL level, often resulting in goals or scoring chances.

The Senators are determined to clog the neutral zone, thus hoping to force the Rangers into dumping pucks deep. With Erik Karlsson playing 30-plus minutes per game, that strategy means the Rangers have to attack the best skating defenseman in the world.

If Miller can keep up his confident play with the puck and force controlled zone entries, the Rangers will be set up for success against Ottawa. The bounces will come in time, especially with Mats Zuccarello heating up on the other wing.

With the Senators attempting to play a neutral zone chess game against the Rangers, Miller represents a queen, capable of slashing through clogged lanes and completing breathtaking plays.

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All that remains is for him to get one or two pucks bouncing his way, and the Rangers will have a much better chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time in six years.