After driving the Ottawa Senators nuts in the opening round, Brian Boyle’s found someone else to irritate in Round 2.
New York’s hulking center returned to the lineup on Monday against the Capitals after missing the last three games with a concussion. He played 15:20, was on the ice for Washington’s game-winning goal and tagged with a holding the stick penalty in the third period.
On Tuesday, he expressed frustration with his play.
“I stunk,” Boyle told Newsday. “”I didn’t really do anything and then I was a pretty big reason they scored their third goal.
“I’m not going to accept it. I know the coaches won’t, either. I have to do better. I know I can and that was not the way I wanted to play. I’m determined to do more. I’m going to try to do more. I’m not going to make excuses.”
Pretty harsh self-analysis from a guy that hadn’t played in nine days. That said, Boyle seems cognizant of his importance to the Rangers’ success — he’s scored two of New York’s five game-winning goals this postseason and given his size, presents a rather unique matchup problem.
At 6-foot-7, 244-pounds, Boyle is one of the biggest forwards in the league. The Caps can counter with defensemen John Erskine (6-4, 222) or Jeff Schultz (6-6, 232) though it’s the smaller of the two — Erskine — who’s more physical.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.