After an underwhelming Game Four in Philadelphia Rangers’ Head Coach Alain Vigneault gave J.T. Miller, whom he previously scrutinized, his first career playoff game. Miller made the most of it, playing on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin, and earned an assist in the Rangers’ 4-2 win. Via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, Vigneault was indeed happy with Miller’s contribution.
“He brought us some good skill level, did some good plays. Just thinking that he might be able to help us out and I thought he did a good job. … [Carcillo] brings a lot of good things; the energy, the physically. J.T. brings a higher skill level, protects the puck a little bit better. I thought [Sunday] that would help us out.”
Linemate Brad Richards also praised Miller.
“He’s not scared to make a play or hold onto pucks.”
Particularly from Vigneault, the comments are diplomatic but thinly veiled. Carcillo means well and gives his all every shift, but he’s a liability (as are the other 4th liners on this team) on a line which is expected to contribute offensively. J.T. Miller is very raw and maybe not be affluent away from the puck, but the Rangers are more than capable enough defensively – from Lundqvist to the defense and Hagelin and Richards’ ability – that his deficiencies can be overlooked for what he brings to the table physically and offensively.
Of course, it was only one game, and he honestly did not even play a great game; at least empirically. Vigneault purposely sheltered Miller’s minutes and never started him in the defensive zone, though he did send out Richards’ line against Philadelphia’s top defensive pairing. Miller had a 42.9% Corsi %, which is fairly below average.
Still, it was a good first showing from a young guy thrown right into the fire. After a few underwhelming performances from the Richards’ line, it certainly was noticeable with Miller as the third component. While there is tremendous value in possession stats and stats in general, one thing they can not account for is certain existential and unquantifiable variables; in this case, Miller having to adjust to the new experience on short notice. He made his offensive zone opportunities count, and the 42.9% is a ways off from the 51% he averaged during the regular season. It’s reasonable to believe that Miller will regress closer to that 51% mark in the next few games since he’ll feel more comfortable and hopefully develop some sort of rhythm and chemistry with Richards and Hagelin. He’s not by any means the perfect fit, but Miller might be able to provide enough of a boost to get the job done until Kreider – with the Rangers hopefully still alive – is ready to come back.
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