3 Adjustments New York Rangers Should Make Ahead of Stanley Cup Final
The average height on the Los Angeles Kings roster is 6'1".
The average height on the New York Rangers roster is more than an inch shorter.
That matters. Hockey is a physical game. The Rangers are a team built on speed. The Kings are built on brawn.
Of course, a speedy team can wear down a physical team, but not if the physical team imposes its will first.
How do the Rangers adjust to this size difference? Here are three important adjustments the Rangers should make ahead of the Stanley Cup Final.
Move Brian Boyle to Center
The Rangers' biggest disadvantage against the Kings is size.
By and large, the Rangers are a small team that relies on speed and quickness, not on brawn. The Kings are big at every position, led by their wonderful center, the 6'3" Anze Kopitar.
Kopitar and his linemates—Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown—have combined for 55 points in the playoffs.
To put that in perspective, the Rangers' highest producing line—Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin—have combined for 34.
Kopitar is the engine that makes that line move. The only center on the Rangers who can match with him, on a size basis, is Brian Boyle.
But the 6'7" Boyle plays wing, with Dominic Moore centering Derek Dorsett and Boyle. While Moore is a fine defensive player, at only 6'1", he will be at a distinct disadvantage in the faceoff circle and in the corners against Kopitar.
Moving Boyle to center will allow the speedy Moore to focus on Gaborik, who is much faster than Boyle and thus would skate circles around him.
Putting Boyle at center would give the Rangers the best chance to neutralize Kopitar.
Swap Rick Nash for Carl Hagelin on the Penalty Kill
The Rangers have had an unbelievable penalty kill in the playoffs—killing 85.9 percent of their penalties.
So why change anything?
It's all about size.
The Kings are a big team, and they use that size well on the power play, where they have converted 25.4 percent of their chances.
They do it with Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty, all sturdy players.
In order to neutralize this high-powered unit, the Rangers need to pair Boyle with Rick Nash on the first penalty-killing unit.
Hagelin is a fine penalty-killer, but at 5'11", 186 pounds, he's a flyweight compared to the heavyweights from Los Angeles.
Nash, at 6'4" and 213 pounds, is better suited to clash with the Kings. Besides, his defense has really stood out in these playoffs, even though he isn't scoring. As the winger told Larry Brooks of the New York Post:
It’s not about individual numbers when you’re playing for a winning team. It’s about doing whatever you can to help the team. ... Does it matter? Whatever you do, you need to be able to do something else if that’s what the team needs. That’s what I’m trying to do now; whatever the team needs from me.
The Rangers will, once again, need their penalty kill to be successful. Putting Nash's size on the first unit will go a long way.
Play Kevin Klein More
Kevin Klein, despite playing limited minutes, has done a fantastic job this postseason.
Logging 13 minutes a game, Klein has four points and is plus-seven.
But he may be the Rangers' most physical defenseman, and if you haven't noticed, the Kings are really physical and brawny.
After every game, it always seems that Klein plays more than he actually does. That's because every time he's out there, he makes plays.
In my mind, Klein is a more physical defenseman than Anton Stralman. If Stralman struggles against the size of the Kings, Klein should be the one called upon to help.
Regardless of how the other defensemen play, Klein should get more minutes. He's proven he's capable of handling it.