Tampa, FL —Hopkins native and former Minnetonka High Schooler K’Andre Miller was labeled as one of the “breakout stars” of the New York Rangers by one prominent New York publication after helping the team to a 2-0 series advantage against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals late last week.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning did get back into the series with a 3-2 win in Tampa on Sunday, and looked to even the series Tuesday night.
But Miller, a second-year defenseman, has been a key to the Rangers’ postseason run that saw them defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and the favored Carolina Hurricanes in the first two rounds.
In the New York Post on Saturday, Ethan Sears wrote that while New York’s Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko is getting a lot of attention during the postseason, the 22-year-old Miller “too. “
Sears wrote that the Rangers are two games from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, and “Miller, in just his second NHL season, has everything to do with why the Rangers have found themselves in such a position.”
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant echoed those sentiments.
“He’s been good all year,” Gallant said about Miller. “He’s getting better. Every month he got better and better and better, more confident. And he plays 24, 25 minutes a night for us.”
Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said Miller has not looked his age nor seemed overawed by the big occasion.
“(Miller has) been great for us all playoffs,” Fox said. “I think he’s been getting better from day one of the season and making a huge impact. So it’s something we need and something he brings every night.”
Though Fox and Ryan Lindgren are the outstanding top defensive pair, Sears pointed out that Gallant has not shied away from calling upon Miller and fellow blueliner Jacob Trouba to take a heavy share of the toughest matchups on a nightly basis.
Miller also has made a contribution at the other end of the ice. After not recording a point against the Hurricanes, Miller had an assist in Game 1 against the Lighting, and then he scored just 5:59 into Game 2 when he put his own rebound in past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasileviskiy.
“(Frank Vatrano) made a great play down low, finding me in that high slot,” Miller told the New York Post. “And (I) try to get a puck on net quick. Got blocked, got it back again, put it on net.”
On Sunday, the Rangers led 2-1 at the second intermission, before Tampa Bay responded with two goals in the third period, including the game-winner with just 42 seconds left in regulation.
“Yeah, obviously we had them for a good majority of the game,” Miller said in a press conference the next day. “The third came around and we got away from our game, and it was costly.”
Miller said he was not surprised that the Lighting had a response on home ice in Game 3, after losing the first two games. He said he expected more of the same Tuesday night in Florida.
“Any time the home team gets a win, they are going to have a little push back. We kind of expected (that push back) going into (Game 3),” Miller said. “I think it’s just about managing that, sticking to what we know and what got us here all year, just our details.
“We knew they would push back, and it was about managing that and coming back (in Game 4) and matching that intensity.”
Miller was the Rangers’ first-round draft pick (22nd overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft. He played two seasons at Minnetonka High School before joining the US Hockey National Team Development Program in Michigan. He then played two seasons at the University of Wisconsin.
Earlier this year, Miller told The Athletic that one of his greatest youth hockey memories came when Minnetonka High won the 2018 Class 2A championship, even though he no longer was part of the team.
“One that sticks out the most, I wasn’t even there for,” Miller said. “I was playing for the national program in Michigan and my high school buddies won the state championship here. That was really special for our community, our city in Minnetonka. A really special time for my friend group.”