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Posts tagged: Brian Boyle

Opportunity for Boyle

No question, the Rangers made a huge splash this summer with the acquisition of Rick Nash. Thanks to the move the Rangers find themselves with more (legitimate) elite talent than they have had in well over a decade but at some stage even top line players need offensive support. Even the dominant Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s had role players step up when needed.

With the loss of Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov the Rangers lost two core role players. They lost two home grown Rangers that proved they had offensive ability, even if they lacked consistency. Unfortunately you have to give to receive. With those two gone however, it offers a bigger chance for another player or two to step up. Forget Callahan, Stepan and Kreider. All three could be needed in the top six and will be counted on to various degrees.

The opportunity that presents itself is a perfect chance for Brian Boyle to reassert himself as a critical piece in the Rangers line up. Boyle needs a good season. While he came on toward the end of last year, offensively he wasn’t as effective as he was during his breakout season a year prior.

Despite continuing in his role as a defensively reliable player Boyle will need to offer more up the other end of the ice given the Rangers’ up and coming array of centers in the system such as Steven Fogarty, Mike St Croix and Oscar Lindberg. Each offers legitimate NHL potential either as an offensive player or as a checking center while offering the benefit of significant cap savings as opposed to Boyle.

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Musings: CBA strife and life in Richards shadow

It’s a musings day folks. With little Ranger specific news let’s just get into it and talk about anything and everything, ok?

What side of the CBA war do you side with? It’s hard to link arms with the owners and the league, a league that has come across as incredibly greedy through the media. Are they greedy? Was the last CBA that bad that they had to resort to extreme measures?

Is there a public figure or leader – in sports or entertainment – with as negative a public reputation as Gary Bettman? He’s actually done a solid job over the years. Despite stretching it too far, expansion has been a relative (and necessary) success for the league; he has grown the sport immeasurably and has proven a strong leader in the face of challenges such as the KHL and on matters such as the Olympics. That said, if his reign ended tomorrow he’d be considered greedy, too stubborn and arrogant.

Do you think the public appearance of players such as Crosby, Ovechkin or Lundqvist influences the NHLPA’s position or media and fan bias in the CBA talks?

We discussed how the Flyers may be a competitor for the Rangers for blueliners going forward. Right now the Canadiens cannot get PK Subban to ink a new deal. Well, is there anyone more suited to the Flyers mould than? Cocky yet talented, considered a pretty dirty player but an offensive threat Subban may be more of a target for Flyers than Michael Del Zotto would be.

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With three top penalty killers gone, who will step in?

No doubt about it, the Rangers have had some serious roster turnover this season, especially among the bottom six forwards. Gone are Brandon Prust, John Mitchell, Ruslan Fedotenko, Artem Anisimov, and Brandon Dubinsky. In are Arron Asham, Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern, and possibly Michael Haley (at least to start the season while Marian Gaborik is out). While the Rangers will surely miss most of the departed, where they will miss them the most is on the penalty kill.

Fedotenko, Prust, and Dubinsky were all top penalty killers for this club last season, with Anisimov and Mitchell seeing some time there as well. Of those coming in, only Halpern has experience as a top penalty killer. Asham and Pyatt have played there in the past, but not much (if at all) last season. This leaves a hole that needs to be filled, and needs to be filled from those already on the roster.

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What if Prust gets greedy?

Brandon Prust is another example of Glen Sather’s recent ability to pull off trade theft. A throw in that became a core player and a great example of the black and blue, never say die Rangers identity. To cap it off, his last contract signed with the Rangers, a two year $800k/year deal, was a bargain thus further cementing Prust as a quality addition to the Rangers club.

With that said, there will be a market for Prust should he make free agency this summer and given his solid reputation as a fine bottom six player, excellent penalty killer and tough competitor with a little offense to his game, Prust will certainly have suitors outside of New York.

Prust therefore will have the opportunity to cash in should he choose to do so. The Rangers will likely have the opportunity to re-up him but may have to match or outbid other teams. Clubs such as the Leafs have been mentioned as a destination. What is a price that the Rangers would stop matching at? Can the Rangers replace Prust from within should he leave?

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Rangers final grades: Bottom six forwards

The bottom six forwards get a raw deal sometimes. Many base their usefulness on their offensive output, and unfortunately that is just not the role of the bottom six forward. Sure, contributing offensively is nice, but the role of these players is to shut down the opposition’s top lines. They are the ones that do the dirty work, they keep the opposing goons in check, they wear down the opposition.

So based on the above,  let me reiterate these grades are based on the players executing their specific roles within our team concept. This isn’t just based on stats.

Brian Boyle

Boy did Boyle have some major responsibilities this season. He was generally responsible for lining up against the opposition’s top scorers and was given the job of shutting them down. He also was the guy that Torts turned to when he needed a defensive zone face off win. People look to his drop in scoring (11-15-26 this year, a drop from 21-14-35 last year) and they assume Boyle has just been awful. That’s not the case. Boyle started just 28.8% of all his shifts in the offensive zone, good for lowest rate on the team. But yet, he managed to finish 43.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. The result: a player that did his job. He handled the defensive zone pressure and set up the Rangers in the offensive zone.  Oh, and he was tied with Brad Richards and John Mitchell for second on the team in face off win percentage (51.8%).

In the playoffs, Boyle was clearly getting under the Ottawa Senators’ skin, which is why Chris Neil decided to target him with a head shot. Boyle was one of the most effective Ranger forwards before the concussion, and was clearly not the same after. Mid-season: B/Full Season: A-/Playoffs: B+.

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Boyle returns to the ice

The best news of the day came from Rick Carpiniello, who broke the news that Brian Boyle was indeed on the ice and skating in practice. Boyle looks like he will return for the series against the Caps, meaning he will only have missed two or three games with his concussion.

Boyle’s return is huge news for the Rangers. They will now be dressing a full strength roster, something they haven’t done since Game Two against the Senators. It is expected that Boyle will replace John Mitchell in the lineup when he returns.

Replacing Boyle in the lineup

When Chris Neil took out Brian Boyle with a questionable hit on Saturday night, he took out the Rangers most effective forward. He took out their leading scorer, top defensive forward, and top penalty killer in this series. He took out the only player that has managed to get under the skin of the Senators. It’s a big blow to the Rangers, and not a player easily replaced. The best the Rangers can do is find some sort of lineup option that maximizes the return of Carl Hagelin, and minimizes the departure of Boyle. This is no easy task.

Side note: Is it great for the depth of the team to say that Boyle has been the best forward, or is it a sign of weakness in the top six? Tough call there.

The good news, as mentioned above, is that Hagelin will be returning to the lineup tonight after serving his three game suspension for elbowing and concussing Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. The addition of Hagelin adds some much needed speed and puck possession to the lineup, which also helps minimize the negative effects of having their top defensive forward out of the lineup.

This leaves the Rangers with a few lineup options to consider for the game, and while none are perfect, they give the Rangers much needed flexibility.

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No suspension for Neil: Fair or foul?

News this morning broke that Chris Neil would not have a hearing –thus no suspension– for his hit on Brian Boyle that knocked the Rangers most dominant skater in this series* out of the game (and likely season) with a concussion. The hit (video below) had Boyle looking down at the puck while skating over the middle, and Neil specifically seeking him out ad delivering the hit.

*-It’s sad when Boyle is the most dominant skater in the series for the Rangers.

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Is Boyle becoming what his pedigree promised?

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.

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What Chris Kreider really means

Chris Kreider doesn’t have to be a difference maker at this stage of his career even if that would be a nice bonus. What he needs to do is be able to add depth to the forwards and help Tortorella roll line after line and add his speed to the mix. Brian Boyle is exhibit A of how in the playoffs it’s often the depth that wins games and scores the big goals.

There will be plenty of games when the likes of Marian Gaborik get shutdown. It’s then that the likes of Brian Boyle need to be the difference. That’s why this Rangers team has the chance to go deep; because they have that depth. It’s one of the main reasons the Bruins won the cup last year; behind spectacular goaltending and depth. And we know this Rangers team has goaltending.

In game three, Kreider looked timid at first but grew as the game wore on. His line may have lacked cohesion but right now all Kreider has to do is hold Hagelin’s spot, learn on the fly and not be a liability. Kreider should stay in the line up when Hagelin returns because with both kids in the team and with Gaborik in full flight, there are not many teams that can match this kind of explosive speed up and down a line up.

Kreider should improve as the playoffs continue. Simply through more practice, a longer adjustment period and with fewer nerves (after all, it was his pro debut) Kreider should be able to become a bigger factor. In his 11:11 worth of ice time Kreider got better each shift. That’s no mean feat against a team that threw the kitchen sink at the Rangers towards the end.

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