With the second half of the season already upon us, it’s going to take a total team effort by the New York Rangers to transfer the success of the first half to the rest of the season. Players are going to have to defend a bit harder, skate a bit faster, and, more importantly, score a few more goals.
Both John Tortorella and Ryan Callahan commented before the all-star break that in the second half, the NHL becomes more difficult to play against as contending teams around the league step their games up, quickening the already frantic pace of a hockey game. Plus, with the Blueshirts number one in the East, the bulls-eye is squarely on their backs.
One player who has benefitted from having a week off at midseason is Brian Boyle, who is just as important to the Rangers’ success as any other player.
Since play resumed on Jan 31, Brian Boyle has scored two goals and one assist in five games, including a clutch, game-tying goal during last night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Outside of Brandon Prust, no one deserved the rest given to NHL players during the all-star break more than Brian Boyle, who has had a disappointing season offensively but has excelled in other areas of his game.
Everyone’s expectations of Boyle were raised high, albeit a tad unfairly, after he scored a career-high 21 goals last season, when it seemed every shot Boyle took went in to the net. To expect the same to happen this season wasn’t realistic. This year, the bounces haven’t gone his way (only five goals in 52 games), casuing some to believe Boyle’s services aren’t needed: a statement that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What Brian Boyle brings to the Rangers is exactly what the team identity is based on: heart. On more occasions than can be counted, Boyle has sacrificed his body to block shots – a Rangers mantra - sometimes several on the same shift. He’s been admirable in sticking up for his teammates and, despite a win or loss, is always available to talk to the media with candid, honest quotes. He’s a team guy, first and foremost, and when you have aspirations of winning a Stanley Cup, you need players like Brian Boyle in your locker room. To say he’s not needed because he doesn’t score, or can’t skate, or does “nothing” is downright foolish.
The Rangers are going to need every bit of secondary scoring in the second half, especially if they opt not to, or strike out at getting another scorer at the Feb 27 trade deadline. Boyle’s offensive game has come around the past five games and if he can continue to help offensively, it just makes him that much more valuable to the New York Rangers.