Here is my story from The Journal News and lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – The Rangers are going to have, at minimum, five new faces in their opening-night lineup.
None of them is likely to be more important, or have a bigger impact, than Dan Boyle. He’s 38 years old, and he replaced a legit second-pair defenseman coming off a career year in Anton Stralman, who signed with Tampa Bay.
Maybe Boyle isn’t the player he once was, and maybe he’s not as good defensively as Stralman. Maybe. But what he is is what the Rangers need. Because Boyle replaces two players, really (and replaces the jersey of another No. 22 with “Boyle” on his back, the departed center Brian).
Dan Boyle, who signed a two-year, $9 million deal, will take Stralman’s spot on the second pair with Marc Staal, in all probability, and he will take Brad Richards’ spot as the power-play quarterback.
Lest we forget, Richards had that power play humming in the first half of last season. But that power play crumbled from the Stadium Series to the wire. Then it went 36 consecutive attempts without a goal in the playoffs, a skid that left them down three games to one against Pittsburgh, nearly short-circuiting what would be a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I wasn’t aware of it, but I certainly am now,” Boyle laughed. “It takes five guys. One guy’s not going to come in and change everything all together. … Everybody who’s out there is going to have to be accountable to turn it around.”
Just think about how different last season might have looked, or the playoffs might have gone, if the Rangers’ power play could have changed the outcomes of some of the those many close games.
So, yeah, Boyle’s kind of important.
“He’s an experienced guy that’s played at a high level in this league and in many pressure situations,” his buddy, Greenwich neighbor and former Cup-winning teammate in Tampa, Martin St. Louis, said. “He reads the game really well. He battles. He’s a battler. I know when you think of Dan Boyle you think of his play with the puck, but he’s very effective without it. He gets open and he’s able to control the pace of play a lot of the time.”
Through the early part of training camp, Boyle’s skill, skating, instincts and poise have already been evident. So has his leadership, the first thing Vigneault mentioned when asked about Boyle.
“That’s part of it, but that’s not why I’m here,” Boyle said. “I want to be clear that I’m not just here to fade into the sunset. I’m here to win. Even before they went on their run last year to the Cup Final, this is where I wanted to be. I do take pride in helping the younger guys out, but I’m here to work and play and make a difference on the ice.”
Being a right-handed shot can also dramatically change the look of the Rangers power play, which has been mediocre-to-lousy seemingly forever. For example, having a righty quarterback might mean more power-play minutes for left-handed Ryan McDonagh, whereas with the lefty Richards back there, Vigneault often searched for a righty to face him.
“We’ve got more left-handed shooters than right-handed shooters, so having a right guy up top helps us out,” Vigneault said. “We can do one-touch passes a little bit quicker, you can shoot it a little bit quicker. We didn’t have a lot of that element last year.”
As Boyle said, it’s not all about the power play. His puck-moving skills fit perfectly in Vigneault’s system, which is not a lot different than the style Boyle played in San Jose or in the Cup year of 2004 in Tampa.
“You know what I was brought here for and what my attributes are and I like to think I’ll be able to help out. This team likes to play an offensive type of game and that’s exactly what I want to do. Get the puck out of our zone as quickly as we can and spend as much time in their zone as possible.”
“Obviously,” St. Louis said, “he’s known for (the power play) but I think we’ve got to rely on him more than just being a quarterback on the power play.”
They have to rely on him to make a difference.
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./lohud.com