You won’t see him logging ridiculous minutes like Zdeno Chara night in and night out or see him put up offensive numbers like Torey Krug, but Johnny Boychuk has been one of—if not the best—Bruins defensemen so far this season.
Boychuk has two goals and 15 assists in 51 games while averaging just over 21 minutes per game. Those who have followed the Bruins in recent years can tell you that Boychuk is quietly having his best year as a Bruin, his plus-24 plus/minus rating can back that up.
Boychuk’s play in Tuesday’s win over the Canucks is a prime example of how Boychuk has played all season. The Edmonton, Alberta, Canada native had an assist and finished the night a plus-1, but it was his two big hits on forward David Booth that really stuck out.
With Boychuk upset after a questionable hit by Kellan Lain, Booth was the unfortunate victim of what was the Johnny Boychuk freight train.
“Especially in this building here, anytime our team comes up with a big, clean hit, it really gets the crowd into the game, and it really picks up your team” said head coach Claude Julien. “That’s for anybody I think, and that’s the way we play the game. We like to play a heavy game, and to me, Johnny was at his best here tonight.”
It’s safe to say that Lain poked the bear Tuesday night.
“When something like that happens to you, you get a little ticked off and you want to just crush people. I mean it’s not a big secret. You just have to try and do it cleanly” said Boychuk
What was almost as impressive as his big hits was his assist on Daniel Paille’s breakaway goal. From his own zone, Boychuk sent a laser of a pass to the tape of Paille who was flying through the neutral zone. Paille raced in all alone and backhanded one past Canucks goalie and Bruins fan favorite Roberto Luongo to extend the Bruins lead to two.
“I was really tired. I am not going to lie, we were out there battling and you know I just looked up and Danny [Paille] was coming off of the bench, and he just had to make the pass. It’s not as easy as it looks especially when you’re at the end of a long, long shift” added Boychuk.
Boychuk and the rest of the Bruins blue line will really be tested in their last two games before the NHL breaks for the Winter Olympics. The Bruins will be without Captain Zdeno Chara for Thursday’s game against the Blues, and Saturday’s tilt against the Senators as Chara will have the honor of carrying the Slovakian flag during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics Friday night.
With Chara out of the lineup, Boychuk becomes the most veteran defensemen on the Bruins roster. But Boychuk knows with the guys they have on the backend, life without Chara won’t be too bad.
“I just realized that today. These guys that we have back here, they don’t play like rookies that’s for sure. I am pretty sure that they will do a great job.”
For the next two games it’s expected that Boychuk and D-partner Matt Bartkowski will be the teams’ “shut down pair.” For Bartkowski, it’s “challenge accepted.”
“I like the challenge. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen. So I’m excited about that challenge and I’m looking forward to it, because the way things are looking we’ll be playing against the top line, so I think it will be fun.”
These next two games will certainly challenge the Bruins blue line depth.
Hear what Boychuk and others had to say after the Bruins 3-1 win over the Canucks on Tuesday: