Checking out K’Andre Miller’s first two games at WJC2020

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The United States kicked off the WJC tournament with a matchup against their biggest rivals north of the border. The United States came into this tournament as a gold medal favorite having an absolutely loaded roster made up of two Rangers prospects in Zac Jones (2019 3rd round pick), and blue-chipper K’Andre Miller (2018 1st round pick). In this post, I will be covering the play of Miller throughout the first two games of the tournament against Canada and Germany.

Game 1 – United States vs. Canada – 12/26

The United States opened the game great against the stacked Canadian team composed of the (likely) first and second overall picks in the 2020 draft – Alexis Lafrenière, and Quinton Byfield. They are also led by captain Barett Hayton, the fifth overall pick from the 2018 draft by the Arizona Coyotes. The Americans came out fast and put themselves up 2-0 early. To this point, K’Andre Miller played a solid game defensively and even got a bit feisty with 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael. It was nice to see Miller get tough in front of his own net and protect his goaltender, Spencer Knight.

After the first period, the US held a 2-0 lead, and Miller played a sound game to that point. The United States eventually surrendered three unanswered goals because of an abundance of penalties and found themselves down 3-2 after two periods. Miller again had a solid period getting a few shots on goal, and was out there for a lot of time on the penalty kill (a good sign that the coaching staff trusts him to kill penalties).

After another goal by the Canadians to make it 4-2, Miller and the Americans fought back to tie the game late. After an overall solid game from Miller, he made the big mistake with 3:10 left and gave the Canadians the eventual win. After a tying goal from the Americans, the face-off came back to center ice where the puck was won back to Miller at his own blue line. Miller retreated back into his own end and made an ill-advised saucer pass across the ice. The pass was knocked down by likely 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière, and ended up in the back of the net. For all the good Miller did in this game, it is this play that will define him in it. The United States lost to their rivals north of the border 6-4.

Game 2 – United States vs. Germany – 12/27

After a game-deciding play by K’Andre Miller that led to a loss for the United States, they found themselves back in action against a sneaky good German team the next night. To start the game like the one against the Canadians, Miller was playing a sound game. He was active early offensively, doing a great job along the offensive blue line, getting pucks through, and creating scoring chances for the United States.

Like the game against the Canadians, Miller found himself on the ice killing penalties, (because they couldn’t stay out of the box again) and doing a good job of it. After the first period, the Americans found themselves up 2-1. Aside from not being to stay out of the box, the Americans (including Miller) played a good period. In the second period, Miller continued to be active in the offensive zone. Like the first period, Miller was again working the offensive blue line nicely, and getting shots through creating scoring chances for the Americans. About halfway through the period, Miller sent a beautiful cross-ice pass that set up a one-timer, but the shot went wide. Miller also found himself laying some big hits in his own end, and even did his best Dan Girardi snowman impression in front of his own net. It was when the Americans were down 3-2 that Miller made his best play of the tournament. He took the puck on a rush from the neutral zone, and left a drop pass that eventually ended up on the stick of Shane Pinto and in the back of the net making it 3-3. The Americans scored another goal before the period ended and found themselves up 4-3 heading into the third period. From the start of the third period until the end of the game, the ice was tilted in favor of the Americans, and they closed the game with a 6-3 win.

*Other Notes*
As mentioned previously, the Rangers also have another prospect on the USA blue line – Zac Jones (3rd round 2019). Through two games Jones may be the Americans best defenseman, and, in my opinion, has been one of the top three players for them overall along with Nick Robertson and Shane Pinto. 

Of all the things that were talked about in the game against Canada, this game was all about one guy – Alexis Lafrenière. The likely first overall pick in 2020 was absolutely phenomenal. He finished the game with the GWG, as well as three assists (1-3–4 points). This kid is as good as advertised.

Editor’s note: Sunday’s game against Russia will be included in the next post on K’Andre Miller’s journey with Team USA at WJC 2020.

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