Since he arrived in New York, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has stressed that J.T. Miller is a young player going through the process. It appears that process is paying off for the 22-year-old, who scored the overtime-winner against the Canucks at The Garden Tuesday night.
The 2011 first-round pick has been one of the team's most effective players over the last several weeks, with six of his 10 goals goals and four assists coming since Dec. 12 in Calgary. The increase in production has led to more opportunities from Vigneault, as Miller has seen his ice time increase from around 13 minutes a game to about 16 minutes, including a career-high 20:07 Tuesday night.
"It's amazing. This game has so many ups and downs, but lately things have been going well," Miller said, wearing the Broadway Hat inside the Rangers lockerroom. "The team has been playing better. It helps. I'm surrounded by a lot of great players. Things are going well, but at the same time I'm just happy we can get the two points and be in a good stretch of hockey right now."
Miller with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider was a force Tuesday against Vancouver, combinging for two goals and two assists and a plus-four rating, as well as 14 of the team's 49 total shots. Miller's eight shots on a goal were a career-best.
Stepan, who scored the Rangers' first goal of the game and assisted on Miller's game-winner, said Miller's progress comes down to maturing.
"I think as a player, as you go through your pro career you mature a little bit," Stepan said. "You figure out what it takes to be a pro every day. Millsy's worked extremely hard. He's done everything to get himself better. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten faster, he seems the ice better. All of the aspects of his game has improved and he's got to continue to do that for us."
Vigneault echoed Stepan's assessment of Miller, and brought it back to one thing: the process.
"He's going through the process of any younger player," Vigneault said, adding that he felt Stepan's line was "dominant" throughout Tuesday's affair. "He is starting to understand the game, starting to understand what he needs to do to become a better player. Was it my first year that I said he needs to figure it out? Well, he's figuring it out.
"As you get older and more mature," Vigneault continued, "you learn things and you apply those things and definitely that's what he's doing."
Tuesday's game was the second time in three home games that the Rangers left The Garden with a win after trailing after two periods. The third time against Washington, they picked up a point. According to the Elias Sports Burea, the last time New York trailed after two periods in two straight home contests and won each was Nov. 15 and Nov. 17, 2008. Also according to ESB, the last time the Rangers picked up at least a point in three straight home games in which they trailed after two periods was Nov. 10 through Nov. 17, 2008.
"It's that time of theyear at the end of the year where you need to find ways to get points, especially against teams out west," said Keith Yandle, who picked up an assist in 23:33 of ice time. "You find a way to get it to overtime and we did that. You neber know what could happen in overtime and we did a good job of getting the win."
Miller's goal was the first Rangers goal at 3-on-3 since Martin Rucinsky's game-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 10, 2005. The Rangers' other overtime win this season came on a Rick Nash powerplay goal against the Florida Panthers, when the teams were skating 4-on-3.