Thursday, August 18, 2011

Can Barbara Underhill Work Her Magic For New York Rangers Again?

Last summer in danger of losing his spot on the New York Rangers, Brian Boyle turned to Barbara Underhill to help him with his skating.  The results were phenomenal as Boyle was transformed from a big bodied player that did not know how to use that size and strength to his advantage to one that had a powerful stride and his physicality worked for him on both sides of the ice.  Offensively Boyle destroyed his previous career highs with 21 goals and 14 assists due in large part to his increased effectiveness on the forecheck.  The increased speed and power in his stride allowed Boyle to enter the zone quicker so instead of being a step late in the corners he was there to dislodge the opposition of the puck and work the cycle with his linemates. 

The confidence that Boyle gained on the offensive side of the ice translated into more playing time and confidence from the coaching staff, which only increased Boyle’s personal confidence that he belonged in the NHL.  As the season progressed Boyle wore down because of the increased work load over what he had been used to, but the foundation was laid for an entirely new player coming into his own in the NHL.  The work with Barbara Underhill is given a lot of credit for Boyle’s transformation and it has seen her work with numerous New York Rangers this summer in hopes of them gaining some sort of edge as well. 

Yesterday the Rangers released pictures of Artem Anisimov and Mats Zuccarello working with her at the training facility.  This was the first time this summer that Anisimov was said to have worked with her while Zuccarello, Michael Del Zotto, Brandon Prust, Wojtek Wolski along with Boyle getting a refresher course have also been connected to her earlier in the summer.  Anisimov is the one that is most intriguing to me of the group because he is amongst the most skilled and the knock on him has been about his strength.  While working with Underhill will not make him physically stronger on his own it can make him stronger on his skates and less able to be knocked around by the opposition.

There is certainly no telling what the results of any of these players working with her will be, and to expect each or any of them to have a Boyle like reaction to the work would be unfair expectations to place on them or Underhill, but it shows that the Rangers players are dedicated to doing whatever they can to improve and each little step matters.