The additions of Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin are certainly the Bruins biggest moves of the offseason but the re-signing of one of their own should have a big impact on the Bruins back end.
Johnny Boychuk was a revelation for the Bruins last season. After spending about a quarter of the season watching from the press box, the patient Boychuk got his opportunity as the injury bug hit the Bruins and his play earned him a permanent role on the Bruins blueline.
In his last full season with Providence, Boychuk scored twenty goals and sixty-five points in seventy-eight games. He did not approach those totals in his first season of active duty at the NHL game but he brought an all around defensive game that opened eyes around the league while showing flashes of why he was a dominate force in the AHL.
The former Eddie Shore award winner, awarded to the AHL’s best defenseman, netted five goals and fifteen points in 51 games for Boston, a decent total when you consider he had previously played in just five total NHL games.
His powerful slapshot always seemed to find it’s way to the net on the powerplay, although not in the net as much as he would have liked, and came to be respected and feared by the opposition.
But what impressed Boston brass and fans alike was how calm and collected Boychuk seemed on the ice. He made his fair share of mistakes but Boychuk almost always looked in control. He rarely got flustered or taken advantage of by opposing players and showed a defensive side to this game that perhaps was not expected considering his AHL offensive output.
Boychuk also displayed great decision making, not only with the puck but also with his devastating physical game. He was not out on the ice pulling himself out of position to make big hits but rather he let the game and the puck carrier come to him and unleashed upon any opposition unfortunate enough to let him get that close.
After Dennis Seidenberg went down with a wrist injury, Boychuk seamlessly stepped up into first pairing duty with team captain Zdeno Chara and never seemed out of place. Boychuk’s defensive responsibility allowed Chara to take more risks with Boston’s more skilled opponents while remaining confident that Boychuk would pick up the slack if Chara made any mistakes.
Boychuk further boosted his reputation as a budding go to defenseman in the playoffs. In thirteen playoff games Boychuk scored six points but racked up 29 hits and 39 blocked shots and was arguably Boston’s best defender. Boychuk never hesitated to lay his body down in front of a puck or obtain the puck through brute foce. His booming shot from the point produced rebounds and scoring chances for his team while his timely hits gave the Bruins momentum and made opponents more cautious when entering the Boston zone.
He will enter the 2010-11 season having gained great experience earned while patrolling Boston’s top line in the playoffs and coming through with higher confidence. The incredibly calm and patient Boychuk just loves to win and will literally go through opponents to achieve victory.
A full NHL season should produce even better results for a bruising defender still eager to prove he belongs, and will excel, at the NHL level. Boychuk’s drive to be even better should produce even higher results, and more highlight reel hits, on the ice.