BOSTON – Forwards that don’t produce the point totals they like in the regular season like to look at the playoffs as starting over.
That goes for defensemen too, especially ones that are expected to produce like Johnny Boychuk.
Boychuk is around to both hit people and use his rocket-hard shot to punish the back of the net. He did that as a breakout rookie in 2009-10.
In his second full NHL season, however, Boychuk suffered a dip. Despite skating in 69 games – 18 more than his rookie season – and averaging a couple more minutes of ice time per night, Boychuk dropped from five goals to just three in 2010-11 season.
“It’s nice [to start over in the playoffs]. It’s just the whole regular season’s out the window now,” said Boychuk he didn’t go on the ice for the Bruins’ optional morning skate at TD Garden in preparation for tonight’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal.
“It doesn’t mean anything right now. I’m sure there’s a lot of guys that know that and want to either bring what they did in the regular season, or they didn’t do what they want to in the regular season and bring it in the playoffs.”
However, it wasn’t just Boychuk’s lack of scoring that caused head coach Claude Julien to scratch the 27-year-old three times over the course of February and March. The blueliner was struggling with his positioning in his own end making poor decisions with the puck. With seven healthy defensemen, Julien picked Boychuk to sit out and reassess his own play.
“He’s been fine [since the scratches]. I think the thing that we’ve had, is we’ve had the luxury of having some depth on the back end and we’ve been able to pull guys out of the lineup at times,” said the coach. “And it’s probably not a bad thing once in a while just to sit back and watch and refocus and find your confidence again. And I think he’s been fine the last little while, he’s played pretty well. He’s a physical player and if I base myself on the playoffs he had last year, he was a good player for us.”
Boychuk scored twice in 13 postseason contests last spring during the Bruins’ run to the seventh game of the second round. He hit the ground running with three assists in the first six games of this season before a Brandon Dubinsky slash knocked him out of the lineup with a fractured bone in his forearm. By the time he returned to the lineup Nov. 18, he had missed 10 games. For reasons he says he can’t explain, Boychuk never got his game going – that is until he had a chance to watch a couple contests for above.
“I don’t know. I tried to look at my game every game that I played. I couldn’t really pinpoint it,” he said. “I just needed to go up there and watch and that was probably the best thing that could’ve happened.”
With a couple goals over a four-game span in late March, Boychuk started to look like his old self. It’s helped that Boychuk has been a fixture next to his regular partner from a season ago Zdeno Chara since around the first of March .
“We started to get the groove back this year,” he said.
That’s a groove Boychuk hopes will continue now in the second season so he can completely forget about what happened through the original 82 games.
“The beginning was good. Then I got hurt. After that, it wasn’t the best – which I think everybody knows,” said Boychuk of his season. “The last month and a half, it’s been coming back quite a bit. I feel great about the last month and a half of the season. I feel confident.”