PITTSBURGH (AP) — K’Andre Miller was 5 years old when Sidney Crosby was drafted by the Penguins with the first overall pick in 2005.
There’s a 973-game disparity between the Rangers defenseman and Pittsburgh’s star center. And Crosby had 177 playoff games to Miller’s three heading into Game 4 of the Rangers-Penguins Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Still, Miller and fellow defensive end Jacob Trouba have hogged most of the matchups against Crosby and the rest of the Penguins’ top line, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust.
Asked what it’s been like defending a player he’s arguably watched his entire life, Miller showed more respect for Crosby than ever before on the ice.
“Obviously watching him over a number of years, he’s a very skilled player with a lot of assets and he’s been kind of a rock in Pittsburgh for as long as I can remember,” Miller said. “I think getting the opportunity to play against him, to have those battles and those tough swings against him in Zone D, I think that’s experience. It’s pretty fun, it’s a great experience overall.”
Since the regular season, Miller has played Crosby as if he were any other NHL player. The 22-year-old has never backed down from the two-time Hart Trophy winner or left him alone because he is who he is: a three-time Stanley Cup champion who has been a generational player. There may be unwritten rules in the NHL about facing star players, but Miller hasn’t once walked away from Crosby.
Miller can be the X factor for the Rangers to get into Crosby’s skin.
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“I picked up where I left off at the end of the year,” said Miller, who has been one of the Rangers’ most effective defenders this series. “Be reliable, consistent and just be someone to count on defensively. [zone]. They obviously have a very skillful group of strikers so I think they just try to limit their chances and bring that intensity every turn.”
Reflecting on his first three NHL playoff games, Miller said he didn’t feel like there was much of a transition. He acknowledged that he has noticed how each team plays with a little more effort, but matching it and being consistent is the key to managing it.
Miller recorded two assists in Rangers’ Game 2 series-tying victory and ranked third on the team among skaters in average ice time (29:13), trailing only Jacob Trouba (29:14). ) and Adam Fox (31:43). ). There seemed to be a turning point in the regular season for Miller, who suddenly started playing more physically and with more authority on the offensive end of the puck.
“We want K’Andre to play the same way he’s played all year,” head coach Gerard Gallant said Monday. “You have to play physically in the playoffs, you have to be a little more aggressive. I don’t want him to go too far, I want him to play like he has all year and that has been very good for us.
“He is a big boy and he plays well. It’s playoff hockey and you have to step it up a little bit.”