There are benefits and risks to playing with Zdeno Chara, as Johnny Boychuk did for most of the 2011-12 regular season (as he did the prior season too).
On the one hand, you’re playing with the best defenseman in the NHL and you know you always have someone to cover up your mistakes. But on the other hand, if you play poorly and force Chara to have to do too much, that can have ramifications throughout the entire Bruins lineup.
For the second straight season, Boychuk was solid, although not spectacular, as Chara’s sidekick. And then in the postseason he once again formed a solid second pair with Andrew Ference, a duo that did a solid job of slowing down Nicklas Backstrom and Washington’s second line.
At just 28 years old, Boychuk still has time to develop an even better all-around game, and that’s what the Bruins will be banking on.
Regular season: 77GP, 5-10-15, plus-27
Playoffs: 7GP, 1-2-3, plus-1
Contract status: Signed through 2014-15 at a cap hit of 3,366,667
Regular season recap
Highlight: The Bruins dominated Toronto during the regular season, and Boychuk played a huge role in one of those victories Dec. 3 at TD Garden. He scored the goal that made it 3-1, as the Bruins rolled to a 4-1 victory. His big hit on Clarke MacArthur on the same shift as his goal turned the momentum of the game in the Bruins’ favor. He was a plus-3 with three shots on goal and two hits, and he helped keep Phil Kessel point-less.
Lowlight: Boychuk suffered through an off night in Buffalo Feb. 8, as he was a minus-3 with just two shots on goal in a 6-0 loss that was one of Boston’s worst defeats of the season. His giveaway to Ville Leino and subsequent inability to contain the Sabres forward led to a Jason Pominville goal that helped bury the Bruins.
Playoff recap: Boychuk held his own in the Bruins’ seven-games loss to Washington. His one playoff game came on the power play, a place he might be able to earn more playing time as Boston tries to rectify its man-advantage problems.
Grade: B-minus. Boychuk matched his career-high for goals with five from 2009-10, except he played 26 more games this season. He played eight more than games than in 2010-11 and recorded one less point. The Bruins need more offensive output from a guy with a rocket for a shot.
Carnac predicts … part of the Bruins’ plan to solve their power-play woes will revolve around giving Boychuk an extended look at one of the points. His new contract extension could make him a bargain if he continues to improve his game, or he could be trade bait down the road with the emergence of Boston’s top prospects on the back end.