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Rangers Player Grades: Dan Boyle and Marc Staal

Bobby Bevilacqua

Boyle and Staal

Marc Staal and Dan Boyle spent a majority of the season together on the second pairing, as polar opposite players. Boyle is the offensive specialist, and Staal is tasked as one of the shutdown defenders. Photos courtesy of Getty Images and MSG Photos.

While Ryan and McDonagh and Dan Girardi are viewed as the top defenseman on the Rangers, it’s important to have other depth players to keep a team from being one dimensional. Fortunately, New York is host to plenty of solid defensemen.

Marc Staal, a Ranger draft pick from 2005, and Dan Boyle, a veteran, offensive defenseman acquired in the offseason, made up the second pair for the majority of the season, with each player logging around or over 20 minutes a game.

Staal serves as an alternate captain, and team funny man, and Boyle is another veteran leader in the locker room, while also driving passion and quarterbacking the power play. Both of these players have been the target for a lot of blame, especially Boyle, but some of it is really undeserved.

Dan Boyle

Regular Season: 65 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS, +18

Playoffs: 19 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 PTS, -3

dan boyle goal celebration 5-10

Dan Boyle was probably the best right-side defender in the playoffs for the Rangers, and he had a much better season than many people would say. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

In the offseason, Dan Boyle turned down longer offers and more money to come to the New York Rangers, a team he really wanted to play for. Boyle signed a two year, $4.5 million deal to take over the power play, and essentially fill in the spot left by Anton Stralman.

The season got off to a really rough start, breaking his hand in the season opener on October 9th against the St. Louis Blues. He was out until November 3rd, and needed some games to get used to stickhandling again. Shortly after that, he caught the flu, and was tested for the mumps, which came back negative.

Needless to say, it was a rocky start for the 38 year old veteran. He struggled to get into a flow while dealing with the injuries to himself, and the constant rotation of defensive partners due to other injures.

The biggest gripe that people had with Boyle was the belief that he turned to puck over too much, and wasn’t contributing enough offensively. However, when you look at the stats, they tell a completely differently story.

Let’s start with the turnovers. This seems to be what people mention the most. That Boyle is not responsible near the net and gives away the puck often. However, out of the six starting defensemen (Boyle, McDonagh, Girardi, Yandle, Staal, Klein), Boyle ranks last out of all six in turnovers per 60 minutes, averaging 1.35 turnovers per 60. Ryan McDonagh (2.70) and Keith Yandle (2.60) are at the top of that list.

He’s a lot more responsible than people give him credit for, and he’s the target for a lot of unfair flak. He’s not a perfect defender, nobody is, but he’s been very solid for the most part. Among all defenseman in the NHL playoffs who have played at least 150 minutes at five-on-five, Anton Stralman, Victor Hedman and Jeff Petry are the only defenders that have allowed fewer shots against per 60 minutes.

Boyle was arguably the best right-side defenseman for Vigneault in the playoffs, finishing with 10 points in 19 games, with six of the points coming on the power play. At even strength, the Rangers finished with 55.2% of the shot attempts when Dan Boyle was on the ice. He also had a +8.3 Corsi Relative and a +6.4 Scoring Chance Relative in the postseason. That means that when Dan Boyle was on the ice at even strength, the Rangers had about eight more shots on goal per 60 minutes and about six more scoring chances per six minutes than the opposition. Basically, the Rangers created much more offense and quality chances than the other team when Boyle was playing.

Those stats are pretty telling of Boyle’s performance, especially his effectiveness in the playoffs. A lot of the criticism was unwarranted, and came without analyzing some of the advanced stats. He’s not a turnover machine, he does generate more offense than anyone, and he’s a solid defender.

While his point production did dip, he also dealt with some significant injuries and change in defensive partners. Next season, I’d like to see a bit of an increase in his points, and have him influence the power play a bit more during the regular season.

Dan Boyle Final Grade: B

Marc Staal

Regular Season: 80 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS, +18

Playoffs: 19 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PT, -8

marc staal 2-2

Marc Staal continues to improve from his eye injury in 2013, serving as a shutdown defender and a penalty kill specialist. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Marc Staal has been a mainstay as a top four defender for the Rangers since making his debut in the 2007-08 season. Throughout his career, he has been tasked with shutting down some of the top offensive players in the league, and usually doing a very good job of that. Before Ryan McDonagh came to the Rangers, it was Marc Staal with Girardi on the top pairing.

After a freak eye injury back in 2013, he’s lost some of his offense touch, but has continued to get his defensive game back as the year’s progress. When he was healthy, and when others were injured, Staal really helped out when it came to stopping other offenses.

Staal is a case where corsi stats and analytics go against him. He does boast low possession numbers, and gives up more shots against when he is on the ice, but that is misleading. The reason for this is because he starts a significant amount of his shifts in the defensive zone. Staal is used like a fourth line is generally used, starting shifts near his own end, and then working his way up ice. That’s the main reason for his low Corsi Rel.

He’s a very important part of the penalty kill, usually paired with Dan Boyle, and averaging a few minutes of penalty kill per game. His big body allows him to win puck battles along the boards, and push many opponents around. Staal’s active stick and willingness to get pucks on net are valuable. His +18 in the regular season was the highest of his career, and his five goals and 15 assists were each good enough for third most in his career in both categories.

Towards the end of the regular season, Marc Staal had a slight fracture in his ankle, forcing him to get off-season surgery to remove a bone chip. While you can cut him some slack, he still had a pretty rough playoffs, finishing with just one assist and a minus eight rating. The ankle definitely bothered him, as he was not as willing to block shots (understandably so), and wasn’t joining the rush or creating offense all that much.

Staal seems to improve every year following the eye injury. He really stepped up when other players, like Ryan McDonagh, were injured. He’s a great defender, and his offense is slowly starting to come back to him.  Next year could be another improvement for the big man.

Marc Staal Final Grade: B-

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Posted on June 11, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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