BOSTON (CBS) — Johnny Boychuk had an Incredible Hulk-like night Tuesday, except his uniform didn’t shred off his body after he got angry.
There were a few borderline plays early in the Bruins’ 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden that could’ve easily injured Boychuk. But all they did was incite him.
“Oh yeah, absolutely. When something like that happens to you, you get a little ticked off and you just want to crush people,” he said after the win. “It’s not a big secret. But you just have to try and do it cleanly.”
One play in particular stood out in Boychuk’s mind postgame. Midway through the second period, he hit the end boards awkwardly at the end of a chase with Canucks forward Kellan Lain for a waived-off icing. Boychuk, who missed a couple of games with back problems in December after a collision with the end wall, took exception to that play, as well as a few others.
“There were a couple little jabs to your back when you’re going to the puck,” Boychuk said. “It wasn’t an ideal situation for you when you’re that far away from the boards. And I’m sure the player that did it [Lain] knows what he did. And I mean, it is what it is.”
Boychuk didn’t seek out revenge against Lain. Instead, he threw his weight around against all the Canucks. Unfortunately for speedy forward David Booth, he bore the brunt of Boychuk’s rage, as the defenseman leveled him with a couple hip checks that had the fans in the Garden and his Bruins teammates rocking in playoff mode.
“Definitely he’s a big, strong guy. A little bit of a scare there on that race kind of when the icing was waved off. But he’s a big, strong boy and he always comes to play,” said forward Milan Lucic, who’s usually the Bruins player that’s setting the tone with physicality. “And he knows how to use his body well. So you saw it here today. On the back end, he started to kind of take over the game physically and we need that from him heading into the next two games because he’s our most veteran defenseman.”
Boychuk looked every bit a No. 1 defenseman for most of the game, and especially in the third period when the Bruins stifled the comeback-hungry Canucks. Now he gets to be the lead dog in a pack of puppies for two games because Boston captain Zdeno Chara is leaving the team early to carry the flag for Slovakia in the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Friday. Sandwiched around those ceremonies are Bruins games — the first on the road against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and the second at home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
At 30 years old, Boychuk will be the elder statesman on a defense sextet featuring five players who combined haven’t played as many NHL games as he has.
Although the Bruins will try to take a balanced approach to filling in for Chara, Boychuk’s age and experience will definitely make him the focal point. Whatever pair he’s on will be the No. 1 pair. And he might have to increase his minutes and get a little more vocal.
“Yeah, I mean, I just realized that today,” Boychuk said about being the only veteran left without Chara. “But these guys that we have back here, they don’t play like rookies, that’s for sure. And I’m pretty sure that they’ll do a great job.”
Boychuk led the Bruins with more than just legal brutality. He also hit Daniel Paille with a 100-foot pass at the end of a shift for a breakaway goal. The Bruins are going to need everything Boychuk has to give for during their Chara-less period.
Maybe they should get him a little angry before taking the ice to make sure he’s ready to be their No. 1.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.