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03-30-2011, 07:36 AM
  #118
Sturminator
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We now move forward to Boucher's time in New York. I am trying to stick to playoff game reports from neutral publications, as I view them as the most valuable match reports, and they are at any rate generally more detailed than regular season reports. This report is from game 1 of the 1927 cup semifinals between New York and Boston - the Calgary Daily Herald: April 4, 1927:

Quote:
Bruins were the more aggressive throughout. Chabot in goal for New York made 28 stops as against 15 by xxxxx. But the Rangers were the more brilliant in action. The high scoring Bill Cook was too closely checked to be effective, but Frank Boucher, New York centre, was everywhere on the ice, and his work was a spectacle.
I think phrases like "everywhere on the ice" are clearly indicative of strong all-around play. The above game ended in a scoreless tie, just for reference. This next one is from a playoff series the next year, again between New York and Boston - from the Montreal Gazette: April 2, 1928:

Quote:
New York, April 1 - Sixty minutes of torrid hockey between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers ended in a 1-1 deadlock here tonight...

Both goals were scored within three minutes of the start of the final period. Frank Boucher, Ranger centre player, connected with a pass from behind the net to beat xxxxx for the first goal. Seventy-two seconds later a three-man Bruins rush tied the score, Harry Oliver, right winger, shooting the puck past Lorne Chabot.

The game, played before a crowd of 18,000 persons, was featured by the brilliant defense of both teams...

The poke-checking of xxxxx and Boucher were outstanding features of the bruising game, and the crowd was not slow to appreciate their work.
Seems that the Rangers and Bruins waged some very defensive playoff battles in the early 20's, and that Frank Boucher was outstanding in this sort of contest. His mark would have been Frank Fredrickson, no offensive slouch, himself. Later in 1928 - this bit is a preview of the Rangers / Maroons Cup final - from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: April 5, 1928:

Quote:
Out of the welter of preliminary rounds in the National Hockey League battle for the historic Stanley Cup, the world series of the ice world, Frank Boucher, diminutive center ice star of the New York Rangers, has come to stamp himself as one of the greatest players in the game.

Boucher will lead the Rangers on the ice of the Montreal Maroons in the Canadian metropolis tomorrow night for the first of the final five-game series for the professional hockey title...

The brilliance of Boucher stands out above all others in a composite score of the preliminary efforts of the two teams fighting tomorrow night in the championship. Boucher tallied three goals, assisted in the scoring of three others, and spent no time in the penalty box...

Boucher, recipient of the Lady Byng trophy for combining effectiveness with sportsmanship, played through the four games without once incurring the displeasure of the referees. In addition to leading all scorers, Boucher was a tower of strength on the defense, his sweeping poke-check smashed dozens of attacks of Pittsburgh and Boston forwards.
This is pretty heady stuff coming from a neutral paper. From this period, the phrase "tower of strength" seems to have been reserved for only the very best defensive players. Outside of the above, I have only seen it used in describing Frank Nighbor, Hooley Smith, Pit Lepine, though my knowledge of the period is, of course, not comprehensive.

This last one (because I think this is enough), is a preview of an exhibition series in New York after the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs. From the Vancouver Sun - April 2, 1931:

Quote:
"Raffles" To Be Here

Frank Boucher was named on the second team and is again the winner of the Byng trophy awarded to the cleanest and most useful player to his club in the big league. Boucher is almost as well known in Vancouver as xxxxxx. He was called "Raffles" with the old Maroons because of his uncanny stickhandling ability and his penchant for hooking the puck from opposing players.

Ching Johnson is probably the most talked of player in hockey. He is a veritable dynamo on the ice, carries more scars than the average and is always tearing in for more.
I think that should suffice to demonstrate Boucher's defensive excellence, especially given that almost all of the sources are neutral publications and all but one of the game reports come from playoff games (there are a lot more mentions of his defensive work in New York Times regular season game reports, but I didn't think it was necessary, and at any rate they can't be linked). Boucher was credited for his great defensive work throughout his career by fans and observers all around the hockey world, and excelled in the tight-checking style of hockey which was prevelant at the time. Among regular starting forwards (so leaving out reserve Pit Lepine, who is harder to judge because of his role), Boucher seems to have been second only to Hooley Smith in terms of defensive value. In fact, Lepine himself (in the previously posted article) points out Smith and then Boucher as the best hook-checkers in the league, before going on to mention his teammates.

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