March 24, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle (22) waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Boyle has emerged as one of the most important players in the Rangers lineup this season. Although his offensive fireworks from last year weren’t repeated this season, his excellent two-way play and physical play makes him noticeable whenever he is on the ice (also, it doesn’t hurt that he is the size of a redwood). Boyle is a big, physical body that can be hard to deal with. Boyle’s line has been the most consistent in terms of coercing the Rangers’ style of play on the other team and controlling the tempo of the game.
If his line can continue to tilt the ice in the Rangers’ favor like they have for most of the season it will allow the top six forwards to rest and keep the puck out of the Rangers’ zone. It is rare that Boyle’s line can’t get the puck deep, work the cycle, and forecheck with vigilance. Here is an example of a Brian Boyle goal, it sure ain’t pretty but it ends up in the back of the net because he hustled and put himself in the right position to find a rebound.
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When Brian Boyle is playing his best he is playing physical (second on the team in hits), tenacious, smart two-way hockey against quality players from the opposition. Boyle has improved on his faceoffs from last year, and is often given the difficult task of taking defensive zone draws. His FO % has climbed by three percent from his total last year, which is crucial because the only player who takes more faceoffs than him is Brad Ricahrds. It is safe to say that Brian Boyle is evolving into a very special third line center, one with size, some offensive upside, and great defensive instincts. Boyle is second only to Ryan Callahan in blocked shots, and sees more SH TOI/G than any other Ranger forward.
When Brian Boyle is at his worst he is not shooting the puck or is putting it wide. Boyle, for whatever reason, has lost his scoring touch this year. I don’t think many of us expected him to eclipse last year’s twenty-one goals, but for him to barely get into double digits is disappointing to say the least. A reason why Boyle isn’t scoring is he isn’t shooting as much as he did last year. Much of this has to do with the amount of defensive zone draws he takes. Still, he passes up too many chances to throw the puck on net. Boyle is also among the leaders on the team in missed shots. When Boyle is given a shooting lane he has had a great deal of difficulty putting it on net, something we weren’t expecting to see after his breakout season last year. Finally, I am never a fan of Boyle dropping the gloves. Thankfully he doesn’t do it often enough for it to be a real issue, which is a good thing because he tends to get rocked in fights.
Brian Boyle became a Ranger during the 2009 offseason when he was traded from Los Angeles to New York for a third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (Jordan Weal). Boyle comes from a huge family. Wikipedia’s notes about his personal life tell us that he is, "the middle child of 13." Boyle is a Patriots fan and is rumored to eat trees. His first NHL goal was against Martin Brodeur and his second was against Henrik Lundqvist. Boyle is known by the nickname "Bigfoot" on Blueshirt Banter, a moniker placed on him by Caerid11. Many play-by-play guys and color commentators think his full name is "Big Brian Boyle" but I can’t find his birth certificate to confirm this. His teammates call him by many names: Boyler, Boylesy, Boyles, and a few others.
Boyle has been finding the back of the net lately (thank god for that), if he can find a way to carry that into the postseason his disappointing offensive numbers from this year will quickly be forgotten. Even if Boyle doesn’t light the lamp in the postseason he will almost certainly make a big impact shorthanded, on the forecheck, and by banging bodies and setting the tone for the game with his physical play and hustle.