Miller has made the Lightning deal pay off

by Gary Shelton on April 20, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Miller has been a nice addition to Bolts./STEVEN MUNCIE

Miller has been a nice addition to Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 3 a.m.

In the world of headlines, he was the other guy.

It was the trading deadline, and as we all know, the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted a heaping helping of Ryan McDonagh. He was the target, the object of the team's affections. He was the reason the Bolts gave up so much of tomorrow, so it could improve its defense today.

Then there was the co-star of the trade.

A guy named J.T. Miller.

Maybe you've heard of him.

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Few expected Miller to be as god as he's been./CAREN MANDATO

Few expected Miller to be as good as he's been./CARMEN MANDATO

As of late, Miller has fit in with the Lightning quite well. He plays on the line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, throwing in a bit of muscle to their finesse. So far in the playoffs, he's scored one goal and four assists, and the line has established itself. Miller has become the guy the Bolts needed all along, even if their fans didn't know it at the time.

"To me, he was not a throw in.," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Thursday. "He was a  a calculated trade, a little stronger, harder and bigger player that would help our team."

"I coached against him the minors, so I had a little taste of him. I saw him play in Hartford. I had him at an AHL all-star game. I had him at the World Cup. I had a pretty good feel for him, that he was going to fit our style.

"It's clear he has. He has the hockey I.Q. to play with some of the skill players. He's got that playoff mindset. He's got the body to go through this."

There was a time that few outside of the organization knew. Vlad Namestnikov played well alongside Stamkos and Kucherov. But Miller is a physical player, and he adds some toughness to the Stamkos-Kucherov line. He has brought an energy with him.

“We learned from the last game," Miller said Thursday night. "We're still taking too many penalties, but we’re working hard You’ve got to make the right play, and I think tonight we put a really good effort on the ice. We played the way you’re supposed to play when you’re up a goal in the third period. We didn’t sit back. We didn’t give them much. That’s the way we’re supposed to play.”

Miller praised the Bolts' penalty kill, which is 15 for 18 in the post-season.

“That’s been one of the big emphasis coming into the playoffs and the last four games," Miller said. "We’ve really been working on that. We wanted to figure out something we could stick too. The guys on the PK right now are doing an awesome job. Obviously, you don’t want to be taking six, seven penalties a game, but the last two games, the only ones we’ve been giving up are on the 5-on-3. I think it’s such a positive. If the PK doesn’t come up big, who knows how the game is going? They’re a huge part of it.”

Miller seems happy in his new surroundings.

"I was told before the deadline that (the Rangers) weren’t looking to move me, but they would if the right deal came along," Miller said Thursday. “So when it went down, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t offended. Not at all. I didn’t take it personally. It was just kind of a weird feeling, but the way it ended in New York, those last few weeks, it was strange for everybody.”

Counting the regular season, Miller has now scored 11 goals for the Bolts.

One more win, and he'll help lead them to the second round.



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