Welcome to the NHL, J.T. Miller

Rookie scores twice as Rangers beat Islanders 4-1

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    It's Miller time!

    As far as first home games in the NHL go, it would be pretty tough to beat what J.T. Miller did on Thursday night for the Rangers. 

    Miller opened up the scoring a couple of minutes into the first period when he was able to get a puck from his feet to his stick and beat Evgeni Nabokov to give the Rangers an early lead. It was an important goal for a team that has found itself playing from behind early in games far too often this season instead of grabbing a lead and forcing the issue. 

    Miller scored again on a power play in the second period, taking a long pass from Ryan McDonagh and becoming the first Rangers rookie to score twice in his MSG debut since 1970. It only felt like it was the Rangers' first power play goal since 1970, but that doesn't make the goal any less needed for a team that's seen no advantage with a man advantage. 

    The Rangers would cruise on to a 4-1 win with Miller taking home deserved honors as the game's top star. He earned praise across the board for his performance -- John Tortorella cited his "puck poise" -- and the 19-year-old looks like he'll be staying awhile. 

    As promising as his first two games have been, chances are that Miller is not the second coming of Wayne Gretzky and that he will not be taking over games all by himself on a regular basis this season. That means the same Ranger issues that were front and center in Tuesday's dismal loss to the Devils are still lurking in the background. 

    Getting Chris Kreider and Ryan Callahan back into the lineup was a significant difference on Thursday night, even if it meant that Brian Boyle's sluggish start to the season was confirmed with a trip to the land of the healthy scratches. It's not a decision anyone could really disagree with, but it does make it hard to ignore how off the Rangers have been to this point. 

    Thursday night wasn't the first time they've played well this season. It wasn't even the first time they've played well this week. 

    They were very good in Tampa last Saturday night, a fact that did them no good on Tuesday just as their other wins this season have been followed by other horrid outings. That sounds like a .500 team and the Rangers' record to this point bears that out. 

    With Miller in town and Callahan back, you'd like to say that this looks like the start of this year's Rangers team finding itself. Unless you're content to say the team's identity is that they achieve results below their ability level, though, it's going to take a few more strong outings in a row before you can make any suggestions of that stripe. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.