Rangers defense pair of Trouba and Miller attribute success to simpler system and goalies

new york rangers defense
Apr 9, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers come into tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames on a four game winning streak, all on the road. They have also picked up points in five straight after losing their opening game to the Capitals 5-1.

This four game road trip was an early test made harder with the losses of Ryan Strome and Kaapo Kakko, who could both be back on Monday. The team is more resilient, physical, and cohesive than ever before.

So what’s changed? A lot obviously. The team went out and revamped their bottom six with the likes of Sammy Blais, Barclay Goodrow, and Ryan Reaves. They solidified the defense with Patrik Nemeth and Nils Lundkvist. There is also the maturation of young players like Alexis Lafreniére, who already has two game-winners on the year, and defenseman K’Andre Miller.

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K’Andre Miller credits goalies and simpler system

Miller, 21, has one assist and an even rating through six games this season. His TOI average is down almost four minutes from last year, which I feel is a good thing. I broke down his effectiveness when he plays under 21 minutes in a game here.

This season, his blocks per game are up from 1.45 to 1.66 as he’s getting into shooting lanes a little bit better. He attributes that to an easier defensive scheme under Gerard Gallant.

“It’s just a little bit cleaner. The D are always by the net – it’s obviously man on man,” Miller explained. “You just stick yourself between the net and your guy and you should be good. It’s been an easy transition for our team.”

Of course, Miller credited both Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev who have allowed just 8 goals in the last 5 games and a total of 13 in 6 when you include the opening night debacle.

“Our goalies have been unreal this year,” he said. “Making huge saves when we need it. Keeping us in games when it’s not going our way.”

When asked if he was trying to be more physical this year, Miller said it was part of his game before he came to New York. As to why he wasn’t last season, he jokingly agreed with Larry Brooks’ assessment that he was just adjusting to a new situation. “Yeah, we’ll go with that.”

Jacob Trouba says guys can be themselves this year

jacob trouba k'andre miller
Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Trouba, 27, has just one assist with a +1 rating through the team’s first six games. However, he has been extremely noticeable in every game and one of the Rangers most physical players.

One of the Blueshirts top candidates to be captain, he knows there’s a change in the team’s mentality in tight games this year.

“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a different kind of feel,” Trouba said. “Teams I’ve been on in the past you get that ‘oh no’ feeling and this team is ‘shut this down and close it out’. We know what to do, it’s not really overthought and everybody knows their job. Do your job and we’ll be fine. That’s the kind of mentality we’ve taken.”

So what’s the difference? Why the change in attitude?

“I think there’s a little bit more cohesiveness and the team’s a little bit tighter,” Trouba added. “Guys are comfortable being themselves more than they have been in the past, myself included. It goes a long way when you’re in tight games. You build a trust with the other guys.”

That trust was certainly built over time, but it is hard not to credit Gallant for his approach in systems and attitude with this team.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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