Johnny Boychuk is the father of twin girls. This is usually the source of worry and irritability. Especially when the daughters are less than a month old.
On Tuesday afternoon, the girls needed their father’s attention. It was the window in which Boychuk usually takes his pregame nap.
Several hours later, Boychuk inflicted the frustration of his shortened sleep therapy upon the Canucks.
According to the scoresheet from the 3-1 Bruins’ win, Boychuk connected on three hits. The black-and-blue wreckage in Boychuk’s wake said otherwise. On seemingly every Vancouver entry into the offensive zone, Boychuk was looking to throw a check. The unluckiest Canuck was David Booth, who was on the wrong end of Boychuk’s surliness.
Late in the second, when Booth tried to clear the zone along the left-side boards, Boychuk walloped the left wing. In the third, Booth entered the offensive zone with speed. Boychuk wiped Booth out with a hip check. After the game, Booth was overheard requesting a car service to Brookline Ice & Coal.
“Especially in this building here, any time our team comes up with a big, clean hit, it really gets the crowd into the game,” coach Claude Julien said. “It really picks up your team. That’s for anybody. That’s the way we play the game. We like to play a heavy game. To me, Johnny was at his best here tonight.”
Things didn’t look great for Boychuk in the second period. As Boychuk went back for a puck, Kellan Lain leaned into him and sent him crashing into the boards. Boychuk got up slowly but shook off the scare.
“There was a couple little jabs in your back when you’re going back for the puck,” Boychuk said. “It wasn’t really an ideal situation for you when you’re that far away from the boards. I’m sure the player that did it knows what he did. It is what it is.”
Boychuk led all Bruins with 24:04 of ice time. He added two shots and one blocked shot to his three thumps. Boychuk’s first task, along with partner Matt Bartkowski, was to match up against Vancouver’s No. 2 line of Booth, Ryan Kesler, and Jannik Hansen.
Of the three, Kesler is the most dangerous opponent. Kesler is Vancouver’s version of Ryan Getzlaf and David Backes: a powerful, burly, right-shot center with skill as well as brawn.
Kesler (19-18—37) is third on Vancouver in scoring after Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Two games ago, Kesler scored a goal and had two assists against Winnipeg. Boychuk helped keep Kesler scoreless in 21:57 of play. Not only did Kesler not score, but the center left Boston with some extra bruises, courtesy of a handful of Boychukian bumps. Boychuk’s shots were in return for some early Kesler thumping.
“When something like that happens to you, you get a little ticked off and you just want to crush people,” Boychuk said with a smile. “It’s not a big secret. You just have to try and do it cleanly.”
Boychuk got in a game’s worth of licks during an extended shift in the second. On the shift, things were going well for the Canucks. They cycled the puck deep in the Boston zone. Boychuk tried to halt Vancouver’s rhythm with some heavy hits on Kesler and Booth.
A Booth giveaway slammed the brakes on Vancouver’s pressure. Boychuk picked off Booth’s dump into the corner. Boychuk, gassed from the shift, could have flung the puck down the ice. Instead, Boychuk saw that Daniel Paille had just rolled over the boards and was open down the ice.
The Bruins don’t emphasize the stretch pass. But Paille read that Boychuk had control of the puck. When Paille made himself available down the ice, Boychuk connected with an up-the-gut pass onto the wing’s tape. On the breakaway, Paille tucked a backhander behind Roberto Luongo at 17:06 to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
“I was really tired. I’m not going to lie,” Boychuk said. “We were out there battling. I just looked up and Danny was coming off the bench. I just had to make the pass. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially when you’re on the end of a long, long shift.”
Boychuk is a critical piece of a defense corps missing Dennis Seidenberg. Ideally, Boychuk is the right-side strongman on the second pairing. On Tuesday, Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton helped keep the Sedins and Alex Burrows, Vancouver’s top line, off the scoresheet.
It should be that way in the playoffs, too. Boychuk gives the second duo experience, toughness, and a shutdown presence. The Bruins would prefer not to pair Chara with Boychuk in the postseason. It would create a top-heavy blue line with too much dropoff to the second and third pairs. The only way the Chara-Boychuk duo becomes permanent in the playoffs is if the Bruins acquire an experienced left-shot defenseman to play with Hamilton on the No. 2 pairing.
The Bruins will, however, deploy Chara and Boychuk together when needed. That was the case in the third period. With his team down by two goals, Vancouver coach John Tortorella put together a power line of the Sedins with Kesler. The Bruins answered with Chara and Boychuk. They could do so because it was late in the game.
That will not be the case for the next two games. Chara will be unavailable Thursday against St. Louis and Saturday against Ottawa because of his Olympic flag-bearing duties. Boychuk will assume Chara’s position as the No. 1 defenseman. Boychuk and Bartkowski most likely will draw top-line matchup duty.
“They’re going to be expecting a lot out of me,” Boychuk said. “As a defense corps, we have to step up and not try to replace what he brings to the table, but step your game up individually.”