The New York Rangers lost a key role player in Brian Boyle last off-season when he signed a free agent contract with the Blueshirts’ current opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were, however, at least able to replace the name and number (#22) with veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, who inked a two-year deal with New York.
For Boyle (Dan), however, his first regular season in New York was a bumpy ride to say the least. The playoffs, though, have offered Boyle an opportunity to turn things around, and despite some shaky moments, he has done exactly that.
Regular Season Struggles
Boyle’s season hit a major roadblock before it really even got started. The blue-liner suffered a broken hand in the team’s first regular season game, sidelining him for the next 14 contests. Then he battled through the flu and ongoing illness later in the year. Going through these maladies while trying to adjust to a new team and new system, the offensively-minded Boyle never really got comfortable in the regular season, finishing with just 20 points.
Boyle also failed to provide a clear spark to the Rangers’ perpetually struggling power play, so when general manager Glen Sather went out and paid a steep price to acquire offensive defenseman Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline, there was a sense that the move was an indictment of how Dan Boyle had played to that point. Sather did not admit to that, but it’s doubtful the Rangers were fully satisfied with his performance.
Contributing Offensively In The Playoffs
Even with his struggles though, the playoffs are still a new season, and for Boyle, a fresh start could not have been more welcome. He has quietly proven himself to be a valuable piece in the Rangers’ run thus far, which sees them one game away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight year.
Likely the biggest and most consistent complaint about Boyle is that he turns the puck over too often. His defensive coverage is also spotty at times, and he is liable to be beaten to loose pucks, as he was on an Evgeny Kuznetsov goal in Game 2 of the second round against Washington. His -2 rating in the playoffs does in fact support these points of criticism.
However, Boyle has made up for these deficiencies in other areas — namely his offensive production. He has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the postseason — the most for a Rangers defenseman besides the aforementioned Yandle (11). Six of Boyle’s points have come on the power play, which is humming along at a very un-Ranger-like (this is a good thing in this case) 21.7% in the playoffs. Boyle also scored what was at the time a very clutch goal to tie Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at 5-5 with under two minutes left. Tampa Bay would go on to win the game in overtime, but the goal no doubt said something about Boyle’s ability to deliver in key moments.
On that note, Boyle also scored what held up to be the game-winning goal in a wild 4-3 win in Game 6 of the second round against the Capitals, helping the Blueshirts stave off elimination. It was also Boyle who made a great play at the blue line early in Game 6 against the Lightning to help set up Derick Brassard’s first goal and give the Rangers an early lead that they would never relinquish.
In addition to his improved play on the offensive side of the puck, Boyle has actually been decent defensively. He has just been unfortunate in that the turnovers and mistakes he has made have often resulted in goals against. Despite that though, Boyle has done the job on defense, as evidenced by his shot suppression numbers through Game 5 of the series against Tampa Bay.
Of all playoff dmen who have played at least 150 minutes, Dan Boyle has allowed the few shot attempts against per 60 minutes.
— Adam Herman (@AdamHerman_BSB) May 25, 2015
Boyle is also third among all playoff defensemen in SAT differential (five-on-five team shot attempts for minus five-on-five team shot attempts against), at +60. So while critics might like to point to his turnovers and other specific defensive gaffes, the fact of the matter is that the Rangers have the puck more and put on more pressure offensively when he is on the ice.
At 38 years of age, Boyle is without question prone to being beaten by younger, faster, and stronger players. But he is contributing enough offensively and limiting opposing possession enough to make him a key contributor for the Rangers this postseason — a stark turnaround from his regular season.