Paterson’s Point: Marvelling at JT Miller’s monster performance in memorable Canucks comeback to beat the Bruins

Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
4 months ago
Six minutes into the third period, and with his Vancouver Canucks trailing 2-0 and in desperate need of a spark, JT Miller hopped over the boards and skated directly into the Boston Bruin’s zone last night.
While Miller hustled to join the play, Filip Hronek carried the puck along the left wing boards. As three Bruins defenders flooded the left side of the zone, Hronek was able to slip a quick pass to Nils Höglander, who, in turn, noticed Miller charging up the middle of the ice. 
Höglander deftly swung a behind-the-back pass for Miller to step into. And did he ever. 
Miller unleashed a 41-foot slap shot that was recorded by Hockey Night In Canada at 95.7 miles per hour. He leaned into it and got everything he had behind the blast. It looked equal parts frustration for a player and a team that appeared to be headed for a fifth straight loss and desperation for the group that hadn’t been able to put a dent in Jeremy Swayman or the air-tight Bruins defensive system through 46 minutes of hockey.
And while Swayman snared Miller’s slap shot with a spectacular glove save, the shot seemed to be a message that Miller was just getting started in his attempt to will his hockey club to an unlikely victory given the two-goal deficit and with the clock working against the Canucks.
Miller was a beast on Saturday. It was quite possibly the best of the 343 regular season games the 30-year-old has played in a Vancouver Canucks uniform. 
Sure, he’s had bigger nights offensively – he just had a hat trick and a four point night in Minnesota earlier in the week. 
But given the opponent, the current climate of his hockey club and the fading daylight as time ticked away, Miller took his game to another level in the late stages of Saturday’s contest.
He orchestrated a set play off an offensive zone face-off that led to Brock Boeser getting the Canucks on the board with just over seven minutes remaining. He then looked off Bruin defenders and fed Filip Hronek up top for the tying goal with Thatcher Demko on the bench for an extra attacker and just 71 seconds remaining in the third period.
At that point, Miller was just getting warmed up.
After a terrible line change in overtime led to an obvious too many men on the ice call against the Bruins, Miller again took charge. Operating off the left half wall on the four-on-three power play, Miller played catch with Quinn Hughes to change the angle of the Boston defence and with the puck on his stick at the left point, Miller took two quick strides and attacked the net. As two of the three Boston defenders moved to Miller to prevent a shot, space opened up in front of the net. As they’ve done so many times in the past, Miller and Brock Boeser read the opportunity perfectly. Boeser pounced and got inside position on Derek Forbort while Miller snapped a low, hard pass that Boeser was able to re-direct on his forehand. Against all odds, after trailing 2-0 and with the power play in the midst of a one for 29 outage, the Canucks completed the comeback and, with the win, surged back in front of the Bruins for the top spot in the overall NHL standings.
Boeser was the hero, but make no mistake, JT Miller was the mastermind behind one of the Canucks’ best victories of the season. On the night, Miller played 20:26, was in on all three goals with a pair of primary assists, had four shots on five attempts, matched his own and the team season-high with eight hits, a blocked shot and won 13 of 21 face-offs. He won 11 of 12 offensive zone draws and two of three in the defensive zone.
And he did all of that damage, which matched almost exclusively against Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk, with a heavy dose of Charlie McAvoy on the other side. In those minutes at five-on-five, Miller crushed his competition. In 7:01 of head-to-head ice time against Marchand, Miller and the Canucks held a 10-3 edge in shot attempts and a 6-0 advantage on the shot clock.
In a week where the Canucks had been torched by big offensive performances from Mark Scheifele (four points), Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson-Ek (six points apiece) and Jared McCann (four points), it felt like time for a Canucks star to turn the tables. And that’s exactly what Miller did. 
And while he tried to downplay the significance of it all in his post-game media availability, there was no denying Miller’s magnificence in a win the Canucks simply had to have.
Was it his best game in Canucks colours? That’s open to debate. If it wasn’t, it was certainly in the conversation and on a very short list. JT Miller was every bit that good against the Bruins.

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