Entering this season, Brian Boyle was an afterthought for most Ranger fans. Many weren’t too impressed with his play last year, and deemed the trade of a third round pick for the very tall center as a wasted pick. This was for good reason of course, as Boyle showed limited mobility on the ice, and didn’t live up to the expectations of what a third round pick should bring, let alone a former first round pick. Boyle spent all of last season centering the fourth line, while most of his wingers were changing throughout the season. At the end of the season, Boyle knew that his standing with the club was on thin ice.
This past summer, Boyle worked very hard, specifically with the Rangers new skating coach Barbara Underhill, who was a former Olympic skater. The improvement is very evident, as Boyle has been one of the best Rangers skaters thus far this season. In fact, Boyle has been so good that coach John Tortorella is starting to give Boyle some important penalty kill minutes and some additional third line time while the Rangers are dealing with injuries.
The results have also shown on the stat sheet for Boyle, who is off to his best start since he broke into the NHL with the Kings during the 2007-2008 season. Boyle has four goals thus far this year, and while he is unlikely to continue this pace, he will definitely be setting a new career high in points (currently 4-1-5) and goals (4) this season. The way it stands now, Boyle has cemented himself in the Rangers lineup when Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury, and Vinny Prospal all return from injury. Generally it’s unwise to get excited over a fast start, especially from a player like Boyle, but the vast improvement in his skating ability is making many, including myself, believe he can keep it up for a full season.