We all know how well players like Ryan McDonagh, Martin St. Louis, the de facto first line of Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard have played throughout the postseason. Some have elevated their game; others have just played consistent to get the Rangers here. Some (namely Rick Nash) have played well, but have yet to hit that next gear. Oh, and that Henrik Lundqvist guy hasn’t been too shabby either.
But what about the unsung guys? The character players every Cup winning teams need. Lets check out who has stood out for the Blueshirts:
Brian Boyle: We all know what his game is: play physical, win faceoffs, and block shots. And through the playoffs, Boyle has done exactly that. 21 block shots to lead the Rangers, 51.7% FOW and 56 hits (ninth in the NHL during the postseason). Not to be forgotten is Boyle’s work on the penalty kill, which has the Rangers as the best remaining (86.8%). What we weren’t expecting was his offense to surface again (seven points), including a nifty pass to Dominic Moore for Game 6’s only goal in the Eastern Conference Final.
Dominic Moore: This segued nicely but makes sense. Moore is Boyle’s linemate and together form a fourth line the Rangers haven’t had in quite some time and, in today’s NHL, is needed to win. Depth is the keyword, and Moore has been one of Glen Sather’s savviest signings. If I had to guess, Moore’s spirit animal is a chameleon because he just adapts. He filled in nicely during the MTL series when Derick Brassard went down with an injury. Moore is another character guy who does the little things (best NYR faceoff man at 56.2% including 61% shorthanded, seven points, two GWGs) to help his team win, not to mention a stealth agitator out on the ice.
Anton Stralman: Here’s where you have to go beyond the eye test to see how well Stralman has played. While he’s only put up five points, he and Marc Staal have logged lots of minutes (20:17 TOI) while mostly starting in the defensive zone (39.7%) against either of the competition’s top two lines. In some ways, the Rangers’ second D pair has been better than the first, specifically comparing Stralman and Girardi. The Swede has also stepped up his physical game, something he’s not known for. What will be interesting is how Staal-Stralman pair will handle Jeff Carter’s line during the series, which played a dominant Game 1.
Kevin Klein: Watch the last two games of the ECF and stretches of Game 1 vs. the Kings and tell me Klein isn’t trying to be Brian Leetch. Klein’s confidence is brimming to the point where he can smell his next goal. But KK is shining because he’s solidified himself as one of the Rangers most reliable defenders. Yes, he’s a tad sheltered (66.1% ZS) but logs tough minutes while still driving possession (55.6 FF% 5-on-5 close) against decent competition. Klein was acquired for one reason: a righty shot that’s able to handle the Western Conference game. Here’s hoping he finds the back of the net a couple times.
Carl Hagelin: You would think the Swedish speedster was playing for a contract with how he’s performed this postseason. Thank god this isn’t the NFL or a holdout would be on the horizon. Speed is what New York boasts; speed is what will be needed to dethrone the Kings. And after Game 1, Carl Hagelin’s speed was on national display with a beaut of a shorthanded breakaway goal and a near marker at the end of the game. Hags’ seven goals lead the team (leads NYR in 5-on-5 points with nine) and will be relied upon heavily to fly the neutral zone and back the Kings’ defensemen up. We all knew Hagelin was fast, but what everyone waited for was his ability to finish. It may have finally arrived just in time.
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