Rangers Analysis: New and Improved Brian Boyle

Through eight games played this season, Brian Boyle has arguably been one of the best forwards for the New York Rangers. At 6-foot-7, 244 pounds, Brian is not expected to hold a major role on this team with all of the talent present beyond him. He still may not be a star, but there is no question Boyle has made himself more valuable to the club with his recent play. The coaching staff has acknowledged it, the players have acknowledged it, and now it is time for the fans to acknowledge it.

The first and most important factor that has been much better in Boyle's game this season is his physicality. In years past, despite having such a big frame, the Massachusetts native never used his body to his advantage, whether it be protecting the puck on offense or making a hit on defense. That was coach John Tortorella's biggest qualm with Boyle, and it is why he sat him on multiple occasions in 2009-10. But not this season.

Boyle has been hitting everything in site when he does not have the puck, and that has quickly earned the respect of the coaching staff and the fan base. This new physical addition to Brian's game began in the preseason and has grown rapidly from there. It is now at the point where you can expect at least one crushing blow from him every game. That is exactly what you want from a guy of his size.

Do not forget about Boyle's offensive contributions, either. After working on his skating over the summer, he has developed a small set of skill when controlling the puck. He uses his strength to protect the puck from opponents and also when going to the net. Although he may not be the fastest player out there, it is not an easy task to knock a 6-foot-7 tree off the puck when he is coming right at you.

Boyle's two goals during the Rangers' home opener a few weeks back were hopefully the beginning of what is to come. If he can score some goals here and there as a fourth line player, you will be surprised how much it will help the team. I like that him and Prust are together on that last offensive trio when everyone is healthy, because those two both have an offensive mindset even though they are routine enforcers. They can make things happen together.

Lastly, Boyle's effort on the penalty kill cannot be overlooked. Besides Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, he is one of the better penalty killers the Blueshirts have.

Three points (all goals) may not seem like a whole lot to you, but for Boyle that is a great start through the first seven games of the season. If he continues to shoot the puck - like he has done eleven times to this point - more goals will be filling up his statsheet. For a player like Brian, there is no better feeling then when their hard work is rewarded with a goal. And the hitting needs to stay constant too, since that is what will keep him in the lineup when he doesn't score.