The Rangers responded to Monday’s “total disaster” against Tampa Bay with a spirited, well-rounded 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. Cam Talbot was sharp between the pipes, as he made 31 saves to earn his first win, and shutout, of the season. Both Rick Nash (13-7-20) and Kevin Klein (4-2-6) scored for the Rangers, while Carl Hagelin, Martin St. Louis, and Derek Stepan all collected assists in the victory.
While there was no shortage of bright spots for New York on a night when they so desperately needed some, the area which was perhaps the most encouraging for the Rangers was, ironically enough, their power play. More specifically, though, the presence of Dan Boyle.
Boyle, who was brought to New York on a two-year deal with every intention of having him quarterback a struggling Rangers power play, missed 14 games after he fractured his hand on opening night in St. Louis. However, since his return to the lineup four games ago, the New York power play has been noticeably better, and the results have reflected that.
To the naked eye alone, it has not been difficult to notice the defenseman at the point who has controlled the puck well, made the right passes, and has taken the shot –and hit the net- with a purpose every time he’s been presented with an open lane.
With Nash’s power play marker on Wednesday against the Flyers, the Rangers have also now scored with the man-advantage in three straight games for the first time this season. Over that three game span, the Rangers have gone 3-11 on the power play, converting at a rate of 27.3 percent. And although Dan Boyle has yet to actually record a point himself, the 38-year-old veteran has been on the ice for each of those three goals, and has helped move the puck in such a way that has led to each of the power play tallies.
Sure, three games is a very small sampling, and what unfolds in the coming days will continue to be telling about the direction of the power play, but these have been three games now in which the Rangers have put up a power play tally of their own, a small milestone that would’ve seemed anything but possible just a few short weeks ago.
It would be foolish to say that Dan Boyle has been the sole reason for the Rangers’ current miniscule spree of power play success, (all you need to do is watch the slick passing between Stepan, St. Louis, and Nash to realize that), but it certainly hasn’t hurt having a dynamic player of Boyle’s caliber hanging back at the blue line, with a heavy shot such as his.
The Rangers power play is currently ranked 22nd in the league, with a 16.1 percent rate of success. While those numbers are nowhere near impressive when standing alone, they aren’t half bad when you take a step back and remember that there was a time, not too long ago, when the Blueshirts’ power play was ranked dead last in the NHL, and began the season 0-17 with the man-advantage.
If you ask me, the power play is slowly but surely headed in the right direction, and it’s only a matter of time now before Dan Boyle lights the lamp for the first time in a Ranger sweater.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.