Archive for J.T. Miller
Three cap saving moves made by the New York Rangers. Three moves that, at the start (or middle, depending on when the player came into the lineup) of the season, were met with more questions than answers. But here we are in March, and all three have prominent roles with the Rangers. All three are solidifying the forward depth. All three have one thing in common: Speed.
Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have moved from a game anchored around defense and north-south skating to an east-west, counter attack style of play. Vigneault has molded the Rangers using their best asset, their skating ability. It has been the club’s philosophy –for the most part– when drafting and targeting free agents. It is their biggest strength, and as we’ve seen all year, it’s giving opponents fits.
The next two weeks may tell us a lot more about JT Miller’s future. With Marty St Louis out injured for up to eight games the opportunity for JT Miller to really show his worth to Alain Vigneault has never been greater. Whether Miller gets moved up to the second line or Kevin Hayes goes from third line center to second line wing, it appears more ice time and responsibility will fall on the two young forwards.
While Kevin Hayes has recently been flavour of the month (to an extent deservedly so) and has begun to prove his ability at the NHL level, Miller is still very much in the prove-it stage of his development. That said, even Miller has started to earn praise from Vigneault recently and now is the time Miller can really establish himself as a Ranger moving forward.
Right now, the Rangers are struggling to score and it’s largely thanks to their defensive play but particularly their goaltending that they’re still winning in bunches. With a stretch of difficult games ahead (Chicago, Anaheim and a hot Ottawa amongst others), Miller’s ability to come through offensively wouldn’t go unnoticed. The third line (so Hagelin – Hayes – Miller) has been one of the Rangers more reliable units in recent weeks but it’s expected the unit will be broken up with St Louis unavailable.
Who else wants to bask in the glory of the Rangers ripping off a bunch of wins against the league’s best? For once, the Rangers aren’t playing and as it’s Thursday let’s muse.
Kevin Hayes – rookie beast extraordinaire. Hayes has literally grown up right in front of our eyes. His patience on the puck is remarkable for a rookie; his strength on the puck undeniable and his decision making has improved immeasurably.
What’s not discussed much is the impact of the college ‘rookie wall’. Hayes has surely (barring a sudden, out of nowhere loss of form) put to bed this theory for the time being. He is literally playing his best hockey as a pro right now and is seemingly getting better every game.
At times, Hayes’ line with Hagelin and Miller has actually carried the Rangers in recent weeks and given that this is a Cup contending roster that’s one hell of a compliment. With a bit of luck Hayes could reach 40 points in his rookie year and given that he’s played out of his natural position, on a depth line, that’s very impressive.
The Rangers shutout the Calgary Flames last night at The Garden, by a score of 1-0. It was a crucial two points for the Blueshirts, as they needed to keep pace with both the Islanders and Canadiens at the top of the Conference, both of whom picked up wins last night. Cam Talbot recorded his 4th shutout of the season and newly un-shaggy Kevin Hayes continued his red hot play with the game winner. Since Dave is sick, we won’t have all his fancy bells and whistles, charts and breakdowns, just some good ol’ fashioned thoughts on this one…
- The Rangers played a very controlled defensive game with very little available to the Flames. It made the game kind of like watching paint dry, but two points are two points.
- I mean, what else is there to say about Kevin Hayes at this point? He has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the season and become a legitimate scoring threat every time he is on the ice. He has brought additional depth since the beginning, but he is starting to really be a player the opposition has to be aware of at all time. Especially if he is drawing third line matchups. Once everything clicks, he is going to be an impressive player.
- This was exactly the type of game Cam Talbot needed. I am coming to the conclusion that he is prone to the big save, but has a tough time making all the routine ones over a lengthy span of games. That skillset was well used last night, when he didn’t face a ton of rubber, but turned away some tough chances in spurts.
- Oscar Lindberg made his NHL debut last night and played a little over eight minutes. Obviously, that’s not a ton of time on the ice to make a lasting impression, but I thought he looked good. He was aggressive on the forecheck and responsible on both sides of the puck. In the spirit of beating the dead horse, I would love it if he could finally force Glass to the press box, either when Fast returns or prior…
- Kari Ramo played very well in this one. He made some very good chances look routine and that glove save on JT Miller was ridiculous. Usually I will lament desperation plays being lauded as great saves, but a tough bounce off the post will force you into scramble mode. That save showed a tremendous amount of athleticism and hand-eye coordination.
- Lack of scoring aside, the Rangers did what they had to do in this one: dominate possession, limit opposition chances and secure two points against a weaker team.
- Just goes to show you how much Rick Nash brings to the table when he is healthy. Having him and Hank back for the stretch and (obviously) playoffs are a make or break reality for any chance of a big run this spring.
- I love the spunk he showed, and I have historically been a fan of fighting, but JT Miller’s tilt just kind of reinforced how unnecessary it has become in the modern game.
- At some point the MSG crew has to give John Gianonne some protection between the benches from errant pucks, right?
- Islanders on MSG and Rangers on MSG+? I don’t understand the world anymore.
As the NHL trade deadline approaches and Glen Sather adjusts his moving-target-deadline-strategy, the conversation is likely to shift from which roster players can be dealt to which kids can be dealt. As the push for a Stanley Cup in the Henrik Lundqvist era continues (and, frankly as the window closes), the Rangers are going to push and go for it all, meaning they aren’t likely to deal established roster players for immediate help.
This turns the conversation to the farm system, and identifying which prospects may be blocked from making the roster, or may not even be in the long term plans of the organization. This includes kids that have developed nicely, kids that are former first round picks, or kids that seem to have flamed out.
New York Rangers trade rumor season is upon us. This morning, Kevin looked at possible trade scenarios with the Arizona
Cardinals Coyotes (I make that mistake way too much). Suit looked at the Rangers trade deadline strategy, which is likely about adding depth on the blue line. The Rangers have already been linked to Mike Santorelli and Antoine Vermette as well. Oh happy days.
No matter who the Rangers are linked to, they will need to identify the tradeable assets within the organization. That’s not an easy feat, as the salary cap looms, and the Canadian Dollar, which was supposed to be around .85 USD, is tanking hard to around .60. Acquiring someone with a large cap hit into next season isn’t doable unless salary goes the other way.
The Rangers have had a strong year to date – even as we conveniently forget Tuesday’s defeat – but entering the second half of the season find themselves scrapping for the final seed in the Metropolitan division and stuck behind the Islanders and Penguins as they approach February. The Rangers can improve; something that bodes well for the rest of the season. Here are four players that have plenty more to give.
The Rangers captain missed a chunk of the season through injury and since being back has had dominant games as well as games where he’s been inconsistent, particularly defensively. McDonagh has been streaky rather than his consistent self. Before the All Star break McDonagh had a seven game pointless streak and has scored his points in bunches (including 4 points in one 3 game spell and 6 points in a 6 game spell).
It’s not all about numbers; McDonagh can improve in his own zone as well, by being better positionally while also cutting down on the turnovers. Against the Isles on Tuesday, McDonagh again wasn’t exactly stellar but he needs to be for his team to succeed. If McDonagh gets back to his consistent, elite self it’ll go a long way in helping the Rangers catch the Pens and Isles in the standings.
The good news is that Kreider was coming on very strong before the All Star break. The bad news is that he was making up for what has been a very stop-start season so far, individually speaking. Kreider has the overall package to take over games with his size, speed and willingness to crash the net and play physically. Kreider had six points in his last six games before the break and has three game winners in his last nine games showing his increasing ability to be the difference maker the Rangers hoped they’d found in Kreider.
To be successful, the Rangers need Rick Nash to continue his All Star ways but if Kreider can help Nash produce and begin to develop the consistency that has so far eluded his game the Rangers will have two physically dominant power forwards that could help create match-up nightmares for the opposition.
Another player hit by the injury bug, Dan Boyle has flashed his ability and shown, in patches, why the Rangers went out and committed to a 38 year old no longer wanted by his former employers. As expected, most of Boyle’s damage has come with the extra man (7 of 9 points on the powerplay) but he needs to produce more, stay healthy and help the Rangers decide games with a legitimate and consistent powerplay. As Dave discussed earlier this week, the Rangers powerplay has been much improved this season and Dan Boyle will be a major part of that unit so long as he’s healthy.
(this was mostly written before the Isles loss….) Has Miller finally found his feet in the NHL? Has he earned the full trust of Alain Vigneault? What’s Millers actual NHL upside? There are a lot of questions confronting JT Miller as he enters the second half of the season. Miller’s talent is undeniable; he’s already centred the Rangers’ second powerplay unit and has already popped up with some big goals for the Rangers this season.
However, like others on this list, Miller hasn’t been consistent enough, has gone long stretches without producing and on top of that still hasn’t earned Alain Vigneault’s complete trust. It appears that Miller is again a scratch for tonight’s game against the speedy Canadiens. Miller is clearly struggling to convince Vigneault of his worth. Something to consider as the club approach the trade deadline.
A big part of any success the Rangers have this season will be because of their depth stepping up and the kids (including Miller, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast) on the roster will be a big part of that. We saw the Rangers lose to the Isles on Tuesday in part because the Islanders’ bottom six outplayed their Rangers counterparts. It’s a legitimate concern for Alain Vigneault. If Miller can establish himself over the next 37 regular season games it will likely mean the Rangers have finally developed a consistent third line and Miller will have banished any lingering doubts about his long term Rangers future. He’s clearly capable of more.
Continuing on with the mid-season report card, this is my take on the Rangers bottom six forwards. Dave covered the goaltending and coaches and Chris wrote about the top-six forwards previously, so be sure to check them out.
(ALL STATS ARE 5v5 UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE)
- GP: 43
- TOI/Gm: 12.7
- CF/60: 51.3 (8 fwd)
- CA/60: 49.2 (2 fwd)
- RelCF%: 2.0 (4 fwd)
- P/60: 1.4 (10 fwd)
- SHCF%: 11.0 (TOI/Gm – 2.1)
Hagelin’s speed keeps opposing teams honest. He’s been very reliable defensively, a dangerous part of the penalty kill and has big playmaking potential 5v5 on the offensive side of things. Keep your eye on his name in trade rumors. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and with cap space tight after Marc Staal’s extension he could be a cap casualty. Hagelin has been a big part of the bottom six and will continue to be moving into the 2nd half of the season.
*The holidays sort of interfered with our post schedule this week, so unfortunately no goal breakdown today. The Rangers beat a terrible Devils team on the strength of a Derek Stepan hat trick and a strong performance by Henrik Lundqvist. You’re welcome.
The Rangers have won 8 games in a row. That’s awesome. It hasn’t always been dominant, pretty hockey, but they have gotten the job done. After digesting the circus that is New Jersey’s hockey operations, marveling at Derek Stepan’s em, diverse, hat trick, and generally enjoying the win, one pregame narrative still continued to fester after the final buzzer sounded: Tanner Glass.
There seemed to be a tremendous amount of debate, both between fans and beat writers (don’t you love twitter, hockey journalists?) about AV’s decision to scratch JT Miller in favor of Lee Stempniak. At least that is how the beat writers framed it. Fans, on the other hand, saw Miller out and Glass in, which, of course, did not go over well.
In fact, the beat writers did not even broach the topic with AV at the pre or post-game presser. This is seemingly what really irked the fans. We demand answers, and they are our conduits, as journalists, to illicit the information from sources we don’t have access to. But no one bothered to ask.
Glass has been the faux-hawked elephant in the room pretty much since all of the injuries seemed to subside. At this point it’s pretty clear; he is a terrible hockey player. Pretty much every #fancystat ever created, plus all the eye tests tell us that. He shouldn’t be taking minutes or a lineup spot from JT Miller, or anyone else for that matter.
We have had made tongue-in-cheek comments about what leverage Glass has on AV that he was not only given that contract, but is seemingly immune to lineup changes and poor play. How could it possibly be, that an analytics driven coach, who generally makes defensible personnel decisions, can get it so wrong, so often with one fourth line player?
Larry Brooks tried to rationalize it by saying that Glass is a fourth line player, Stempniak and Miller are not, and therefore have nothing to do with one another. I don’t buy this for one second. Stempniak would make for a fine fourth line player on this roster. Steve Zipay tried to defray fan aggression by saying that we should stop complaining about this type of stuff when a team wins eight in a row. That’s like me saying to a client “don’t worry that I forgot to file that motion for you, the judge ruled in our favor anyway”. It’s nonsense.
I suppose we will never know what magic aura Glass holds over AV or why beat reporters are terrified to even bring up the notion that Glass is playing over far superior players. We probably should be satisfied by winning eight in a row. The problem is most of us (on this site at least) have half a brain and realize that they Rangers just (rightfully) tore through a pillowy-soft section of the schedule. We realize that Dominic Moore can’t be skating with a 210lb anchor around his leg when he is trying to cover Sidney Crosby.
I guess this turned into a little more of a rant than I set out to write. I guess the moral of the story would be: 1) Beat writers, we aren’t stupid. When something stinks, have the stones to ask the questions about it. 2) Tanner Glass is terrible at hockey, and I don’t know if our collective fan constitution can deal with two and a half more years of him. And 3) JT Miller deserves to be in the lineup right now. I suppose 4) we are actually excited the Rangers have won eight in a row.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: a heralded first-round pick impressed immediately in his first professional season, but struggled as a sophomore and spent much of that season in the American Hockey League. In his third year, the prospect looked like a lock for a full-time job out of training camp, but was sent back to Hartford after just a few games. But about a month later, the player was back in New York and the light bulb had finally clicked on – he was a major contributor from then on.
Indeed, Chris Kreider amazed us with five playoff goals in his first NHL action out of college, then spent much of 2012-2013 with the Wolf Pack. He spent six more games in Hartford at the start of last season before reaching Broadway for good.
J.T. Miller’s path has been very similar. The 2011 first-round pick began his pro career at a much younger age than Kreider, but he, too, impressed in 26 games with the Blueshirts in 2012-2013, then left fans a bit disappointed last year by failing to break out and split the season between the Rangers and Wolf Pack. Miller looked like the best forward at training camp in September, but was quickly demoted to Hartford after just three games in October. Miller returned to the Rangers on November 29th, and he’s posted three points in four games since then while playing primarily with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast before a stint in the top-six alongside Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis on Monday.