If you hang out around hockey rinks long enough you always encounter guys who played at a pretty high level, but could never make that jump to the Show either due to some unfortunate injury or because they were told they didn’t have the size.
Although NHL forwards are getting smaller, the fact of the matter is there are thousands of players who have to walk away from their NHL aspirations every year because they “just weren’t big enough.”
Then you have a guy like Brian Boyle, who in skates is a towering 6’7. The narrative for the 27 year old has always been the opposite. Yea he’s big, but what else can he contribute? Well ladies and gents, we are starting to see what exactly Brian can do when he uses his colossal size to his advantage.
In the past 12 games Brian Boyle has scored 8 goals. That is a pace this man has not seen before, even looking back at last year when he potted 21 goals. Boyle is getting it done simply because he is using his size and strength to out-match his defenders. He may not be the greatest skater or have the smoothest hands, but when he has the puck and he’s driving towards the net, few defenders can force him off the puck and out of the danger zone.
Brian is also providing more than just goals. He has been the most consistent forward throughout the playoffs (and the preceding push) in all areas of the ice and he is receiving more ice-time as a result. He is getting to loose pucks, he’s blocking shots, he’s making plays, and most importantly he has been physically engaged. This is exactly what you need from your bottom six forwards in the playoffs.
Now I know some of his critics won’t be able to look past his subpar regular season numbers. However, when you take his stats and give them a little context, you realize maybe he wasn’t so average after all.
Boyle won about 52% of his faceoffs (up from 48% last season). He was second among all Rangers forwards with 83 blocked shots. He was second on the team with 236 hits. And he had just a -4 corsi (a puck possession metric based on shot attempts for and against) despite only starting 28% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
To put this corsi number in perspective, Boyle was in the bottom five players in the league in offensive zone starts. Those other four players had corsi numbers between -11 and -21, so his -4 is actually a good number when you consider the benchmark.
Of course the concern has been about his offense. Yet, if you look at the bottom 20 players in the league in offensive zone starts, only Paul Gaustad had a better offensive output per 60 mins than Boyle. In other words, his production actually exceeded that of his role and usage.
Look, Boyle may never touch 20 goals in a season again, but maybe that is not what we need from him. Maybe his importance to this team is a bit more than any of us gave him credit for. All I know is I am happy we have him on our side and I would love to see what the Stanley Cup looks like suspended 6 feet and 7 inches above Garden ice.