K'Andre Miller may have found something in Rangers' last few games
K’Andre Miller knew the instant he caught the pass from Chris Kreider deep in his own zone Monday night that he could go the distance against the NHL’s No. 1 team, the Florida Panthers.
"I kind of realized when I looked up, the defenseman [MacKenzie Weegar] was a little flat-footed,’’ Miller said after the Rangers held on for a 4-3 victory at Madison Square Garden that handed the Panthers their first regulation loss of the season. "I didn't think he estimated how fast I could get going. I took advantage of that, getting wide, and finished it off.’’
The play, which gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead at 12:48 of the second period, was a world-class goal in which Miller, the second-year defenseman, burst up the right-wing boards, with speed through the neutral zone and into the Panthers’ zone, then cut around behind Weegar into the slot. As he leaned hard to get back to the middle, he managed to get a shot up over Florida goalie Spencer Knight for the goal, just before he fell on his backside.
It was by far the best play Miller has made in what has been something of an uneven sophomore season after his All-Rookie team performance in 2020-21. The 6-5, 210-pound 21-year-old has managed that goal and one assist in 13 games this season, with a plus/minus rating of minus-4. He’s lost his job as a primary penalty-killer and been in the picture on a lot of goals against, where the goal scorer has gotten behind him to score from close range.
But he appeared to find something in the last few games. In the Rangers’ ugly 6-0 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Saturday, Miller made a superb one-on-one play in the second period against Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who had broken into the Rangers’ zone. Gaudreau had two goals that night, but Miller simply took the puck off him on that play.
Then came Monday’s goal, which made Rangers coach Gerard Gallant’s eyes light up. Gallant was in a foul mood after watching his team nearly blow a 4-0 lead in the third period. But the thought of Miller’s goal made him happy for a moment.
"I think I might put him up on left wing now,’’ Gallant joked. "It was an incredible goal. I mean, he's got a lot of talent, you see his raw skill and his talent. And he can skate, and he's got that big reach. It’s a good confidence builder for him.’’
Miller had been a forward before being switched to defense at age 16. His relative newness at the defense position was one of the reasons he lasted to the 22nd pick overall in the 2018 draft. The Rangers traded up to get him.
Told of Gallant’s joke Monday about moving him to the wing, Miller said thanks, but no thanks.
"Nah, I’m good,’’ he said.
Furthermore, he added he doesn’t plan on going end-to-end again anytime soon.
"I'm just focused on keeping the puck out of my net, for this time being right now,’’ he said.