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BOSTON (CBS) – On teams that start out 4-7-0, the culprits for failure typically outnumber the “unsung heroes” on the squad.
That has certainly been the case with the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. There’s been plenty of blame to go around.
But in their fourth victory of the season Tuesday night against Ottawa, one of their few unheralded stars of the first 11 games gained some notoriety with his rocket-like shot that should put him in the headlines a lot more often.
Johnny Boychuk entered the 5-3 victory over the Senators at TD Garden with two assists and a plus-1 rating (one of a handful of plus players on the Bruins) through the first 10 games. Reunited with Zdeno Chara for most of the game, Boychuk again helped the Bruins shut down a red-hot first line from Ontario – the Ottawa trio of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Colin Greening – and along the way scored the game-winning goal.
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The goal was his first of the season and was a huge momentum-turn for the Bruins, who just 1:37 earlier had squandered a one-goal lead. A year ago, Boychuk, coming off a breakout five goal season in 2009-10, didn’t score his first goal until his 36th game played (Jan. 18, 2011). So to be on the score sheet so early is a relief.
Listen To Boychuk’s Postgame Audio:
“Obviously it feels a lot better by [November]. Now you don’t have to think about it. I think last year it took me until January, so it’s a little bit better,” he said with a smirk.
A puck-mover like Boychuk with a shot that can seemingly break a brick wall should probably score more. He lit the lamp just twice more in the regular season after that January goal. In the playoffs, though, Boychuk followed up with three more scores.
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To look at his offensive numbers, however, doesn’t do Boychuk’s improved game justice. Once a player the Colorado Avalanche wanted to use as a forward, Boychuk is now the type of reliable defender head coach Claude Julien can pair with Chara to go after high-octane opposing lines. The shutout of the Spezza Line comes just 12 days after Chara and Boychuk suffocated the league scoring leader Phil Kessel and his pair of linemates into a scoreless evening (Kessel only got off one shot on net).
“Every game me and Zee play against the top line and we have to shut them down and tonight it was no different,” said Boychuk matter-of-factly, as though it was just another night at the office. “We did that – plain and simple.”
Boychuk’s in his contract year again. So the more valuable he makes himself to the Bruins, the more cash he’ll see next summer. Of course, more importantly, his emergence as a top-four force allows the Bruins to keep Chara and Dennis Seidenberg separate, so that in theory they have two pairs worthy of being a No. 1 pair. The Bruins are still searching for that fourth defenseman to go along with Seidenberg, but Boychuk had earned his role as a stopper.
“I think Johnny’s been one of our best defensemen so far since the beginning of the year, consistently,” said head coach Claude Julien. “He hasn’t had the highs and lows that maybe some others have, but he’s been pretty good for us. I know he’s a player that, to my eyes anyways, is still growing every year, although he’s in his third year with us. … I like his discipline and his way of playing. He plays guys hard, but at the same time, he has enough confidence to move the puck well. The goal he scored was a typical Johnny Boychuk shot that you’d like to see even more of.”
Stats: NHL Standings
Well the shot that beat the Senators was actually atypical because it went in. If Julien gets his wish and we see more of them from Boychuk as the season unfolds, then that goal total might go up and Boychuk’s level of heroism will be felt at both ends of the rink.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.