K’Andre Miller’s influence becomes an integral part of Rangers’ success

The Penguins walked off the ice Friday night and roared at Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller. The game, which ended in a 5-1 defeat for Pittsburgh, frustrated the visitors – at the second break it was a 4-0 attack in favor of Rangers – but Miller also frustrated them.

The 22-year-old defenseman doesn’t have the star power of Adam Fox or the brand name of Jacob Trouba in his sophomore NHL season, but he has become a staple of Rangers’ top four. Here are some of his numbers from defeating the Penguins: 22:38 Time on hold, one hit, one block, plus-2. Pittsburgh only had six scoring chances against five against five while Miller was on the ice.

And yes, a solid 6:04 of those minutes came against Sidney Crosby, via Natural Stat Trick, a matchup in which Miller didn’t budge and ended up coming out on top.

“He seems to be getting better from game to game,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant after Saturday’s practice session.

K'Andre Miller skates during the Rangers' win over the Penguins.
K’Andre Miller skates during the Rangers’ win over the Penguins.

Prior to Sunday’s Rangers game against the Sabers, Miller and Trouba played more than 1,020 minutes together, the most of any duo in the NHL, according to MoneyPuck, with a handy 55.8 percent goal percentage.

“Trouba was really good for him and he’s a young kid,” Gallant said. “He’s joining the rush, he’s making good offensive plays and he’s playing solid and he’s getting more physical defensively. So we like his growth.”

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Compared to last season, when Miller, a Wisconsin product, played 53 games for the Rangers, the box score numbers aren’t that different. However, the ramifications are and Miller has made strides to stay off the ice. He eats better, stretches more and feels the difference.

“Probably just confidence in the puck,” Miller said when asked about his biggest improvement. “I’ve been able to use my speed and body a little more lately in the second half so I think that gave me a little extra boost and the confidence to do it a little bit more.”

Offensive performance has yet to snap — Miller’s 14 points in 65 games this season leaves an obvious area for improvement.

“It’s coming,” Miller said. “That’s all I can really say at the moment, it’s coming. Obviously not getting the points is frustrating at times, but I think the stuff will come with good play.

K'Andre Miller is an integral part of Rangers' top four.
K’Andre Miller is an integral part of Rangers’ top four.
USA TODAY sports

Still, the growth of his game elsewhere in such a short period of time is massive cause for encouragement. Asked on Saturday to compare the pressure he’s feeling to that of former top pick Alexis Lafreniere, Miller found it was about the same.

What remains unsaid is that Miller, a former 22nd overall, has fared better than the former No. 1 pick.

“Being in college for those two years obviously prepared me to make that leap and I think the guys that we have in the locker room are a great support system,” Miller said. “We have great guys in this dressing room that you can talk to and pause the game. So I think one of the biggest things for me is learning from the older guys with experience and applying that to my game.” K’Andre Miller’s influence becomes an integral part of Rangers’ success


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