Wednesday, December 23, 2009

an update on tonight's lineup and some exciting news for the future

As reported by Andrew Gross on Ranger Rants, Brian Boyle returns to the lineup tonight after leaving Saturday's game in Philadelphia with a tweaked back.  Gross had also reported that Boyle was visibly uncomfortable after yesterday's skate.  It seems to me that the Rangers are rushing him back into the lineup and it doesn't make much sense to me.

You see, as a center (and a penalty killer), an important job of his is to win faceoffs.  However, he seems to be sadly lacking in this department.  In his 34 regular season games as a Ranger, Boyle has won greater than 50% of his faceoffs just 5 times (14.7% of the time).  And worse, only one of those occurrences came after the Rangers ended their 7-game winning streak on October 17, their 8th game of the season.  So doing some quick math, he's won greater than 50% of his faceoffs taken just once in the past 26 games.  Most players would get sent to the AHL (a la Gilroy), or at least shifted to a wing position...but not Boyle.

What makes this the most puzzling to me is that Erik Christensen, now 7 games removed from waivers, is once again a healthy scratch.  In the faceoff department Christensen is 25-20 (55.5%) since being picked up off of waivers from Anaheim, while Boyle is 5-9 (35.7%) during that same stretch.  Christensen also brings with him a highly lauded wrist shot, and one of the best career shootout records of any NHL player.  In fact, his 55% success rate in the skills competition trumps that of purported shootout wiz Ales Kotalik's 52% success rate, according to  It seems that the only thing Boyle brings is about 6" in height over the 6'1" Christensen, and it's not like either of them uses their body extensively.

What does this all mean?  It could mean nothing, but if it were up to me Erik Christensen would be in the lineup and Brian Boyle would be watching from the press box.

Some very exciting news out of USA Hockey today.  Rangers prospects Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan have all been named to the 2010 World Junior Championships team.  Kreider and Bourque were the Rangers' first and third round picks respectively in this past June's NHL Entry Draft, and Stepan was last year's second-round pick for the Blueshirts.

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