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THE MOJ: Fire still burns hot for J.T. Miller, but the flames are steadier

Miller’s career year and the team’s increased success are feeding off each other
Vancouver Canucks’ JT Miller calls out a player during the Vancouver Canucks training camp at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Cooler heads have prevailed.

Or maybe in this instance we can just say that a cooler head has prevailed.

J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks has had a career year thus far. With an assist in Tuesday night’s disappointing 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena, Miller extended his current points streak to six games. In 62 games, the 30-year-old has accumulated 30 goals and 52 assists for 83 points, and is on pace to set career highs in all three categories.

Miller plays with a lot of emotion and passion. There have been examples in the past where that passion and emotion have hurt his game but those outbursts have been kept to a minimum this year.

The overall success of the team has helped. The current 1-5-1 slump notwithstanding, the Canucks have played some great hockey this season and to quote the great John F. Kennedy, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Miller believes that the team’s success hasn’t really given him too many opportunities to get emotional.

“I feel like I carry the same amount (of passion) and I still get just as angry. I just feel like we’re winning a lot more hockey games. When you’re losing games, it’s easy to be more frustrated and we are coming out on the right side of things a lot more nights than we aren’t,” said Miller.

“Honestly, I think that’s a big reason (why) because the team has come together and we’ve had a lot more success. It allows me to play more level-headed – especially when we are winning games because you don’t want to be a distraction but it’s something that I’m constantly working at and something that I’m trying to get better at every day.”

But according to one teammate, there’s more to Miller controlling his emotions than just team success.

“I’ve been with Millsy since the start. To see him grow not only as a player but the way he’s matured off the ice in how to handle different situations…it’s great to see. If you look at Millsy right now, it might be the best hockey I’ve seen him play in the last stretch here. He’s a big driver for our group and when he’s going the way he’s going – when he’s channeling his energy into the game – it’s amazing to watch,” explained defenseman Tyler Myers.

So what’s changed with Miller’s approach?

If you ask Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, the answer is simple.

“It’s just communicating. If he feels if he’s going a little sideways or whatever word you want to use, it’s communication. It’s getting to Millsy or him getting to me and talking it out. If there’s something that bothers him, he gets to it in a good way. That’s what I like. It’s not negative…it’s not combative…it’s just getting to it. I got to give him a lot of credit because it’s all him. He’s done a really good job on working on that,” stated Tocchet.

When asked what has made Miller so successful this season from an X’s and O’s perspective, Tocchet believes that Miller has been extremely proactive.

“I think he demands the puck and he drives the play. You’ll see certain points of the game where we need a little boost and he’ll demand the puck. That’s the way I want our team to play – demand the puck. If you wait around for the puck, you’re gonna be waiting around for the puck,” explained Tocchet.

“He’s not waiting. He’s basically giving the puck or I’m going to go here – or whatever the option is for the other guy. He’s just driving the play and you can just see it.”


* Brock Boeser scored the lone Canucks goal in the loss – extending his point streak to six games (5-3-8) as well. The Kings got goals from Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala, Brandt Clarke and Trevor Moore. Los Angeles netminder Cam Talbot stopped 22 of 23 shots while Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko gave up five goals on 20 shots.

* The loss to the Kings, coupled with Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh, marked the first time this season the Canucks had lost consecutive games at home.

* “I didn’t think we gave them a lot but what we gave them was egregious. I mean look at the goals, we’re all in, pushing the chips in. So we got to correct it. We’ve got to recharge and we just got to get our mind right,” Tocchet said afterwards.

* The game marked the first time the Canucks and Kings have met this season with three more meetings on tap.

* Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff reports that the “Canucks have made significant progress with superstar Elias Pettersson working on what is believed to be an 8-year contract extension. Not done, but big development, and a new deal could be finalized in the coming days.”

* Canucks defenseman Carson Soucy, who has been out of the lineup since Jan. 22 with a hand injury, ‘is fairly close’ to returning according to Tocchet. There is a possibility he could draw into the lineup on the upcoming three-game road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and Vegas.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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