At six-foot-seven and nearly 250 pounds, Brian Boyle
is hard to miss in a crowd.
But if you take a quick look at his statistics -- one goal and three points in 13 playoff games -- you'd think his contribution to the success of the New York Rangers
That is not the case. The fact is, Boyle has been one of the chief tormentors of Sidney Crosby
The 29-year-old forward from Hingham, Mass., has successfully done his part in driving the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar to distraction, to the point where Crosby seems more determined to retaliate against those targeting him than doing what he can to help his team snap a two-game losing streak that has taken them to Game 7
in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Boyle isn't alone, of course. The Rangers as a team have taken unabashed pleasure in trying to drive Sid the Kid nuts. Only defenceman Dan Girardi, with 42, has more hits in the playoffs for the Rangers than Boyle's 41. He isn't necessarily the most punishing hitter, despite his mammoth size, but he gets the job done.
With one game deciding the fate of the Rangers and Penguins, Boyle could be as important to his team as goalie Henrik Lundqvist
if he is able to continue to distract the best player in the world.Game 7 superstar
Lundqvist has won four consecutive Game 7s and has remarkable numbers in that streak. His goals-against average is 0.75 and his save percentage is .973.
The Rangers do not have one skater who is producing at a high level in this post-season, which means if the Rangers are to advance to the Eastern Conference final, Lundqvist will have to steal Game 7 in Pittsburgh.Battle of slumping forwards
At some point you figure James Neal
or Rick Nash
has to stand up and be counted in this series. Neal, who had 29 goals in 57 regular-season games for the Penguins, had a goal in the opening game against the Rangers, but hasn't scored since. He has two goals and four points in 12 playoff games.
Nash has been even more frustrated. After leading the Rangers in goals with 26 in the regular season, he has not scored in 13 post-season games, despite the fact he leads the league with 51 shots on goal.Gas in the tank?
After going seven consecutive games without registering a point, veteran right-winger Martin St. Louis
scored a goal that helped the Rangers beat the Penguins 3-1
St. Louis's performance on Broadway since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning has been met with mixed reviews, but the Rangers have rallied around him in his time of need following the death of his mother
. He played his most inspired game of the playoffs Sunday and will need to duplicate that effort for the Rangers to have their best chance at advancing.Regular season vs. playoffs
There were many in Chicago disappointed with the production of big left-winger Bryan Bickell
after he signed a four-year, $16-million US contract last summer. Guess they figured that since he piled up nine goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games last season he was suddenly a scoring ace. Bickell managed just 11 goals and 15 points in 59 games this season, but once again has been a scoring star in the playoffs with six goals and nine points in 11 games.
With 51 goals in 279 regular-season games, chances are Bickell will never challenge for the Art Ross Trophy. However, if he can be productive at this time of year, the Blackhawks will get full value for their investment.Difference maker
When the game is on the line, there are few players better than Jonathan Toews
. The Chicago Blackhawks captain leads the playoffs in game-winning goals with four. He has five post-season goals in total. In his career, Toews has 25 playoff goals and 10 of those are game-winners. He has 195 regular-season goals and 36 of those decided the game.
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