NEW YORK — Johnny Boychuk owns one of the deadliest slap shots on the Bruins’ roster. Boychuk can hum the puck as hard as anyone.
But one reason the Bruins haven’t deployed Boychuk’s rocket on the power play is because the defenseman hasn’t consistently put pucks on net. That has not been the case in the playoffs.
Boychuk scored his fourth goal of the postseason at 3:10 of the third period in Game 3 against the Rangers Tuesday night. Boychuk could have even more had his shots not repeatedly struck iron.
Boychuk trails only David Krejci (5) in goals. Boychuk’s shots are landing on net instead of hammering off the glass or the end boards.
“Just hitting the net, and guys are getting in front of them,” Boychuk said. “Sometimes it’s just luck. So far, I’ve probably hit four posts. You’ve just got to keep shooting. If you don’t get it blocked, usually good things will happen.”
The Bruins weren’t sure those goals would be available. The Rangers excel at blocking shots. Their forwards are quick to close the gaps to the points. They also deploy a second shot-blocking wave in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
But Boychuk (three shots) and his blue line mates have been successful at slipping shots through the Blueshirt bodies. Torey Krug led the defensemen with four pucks on Lundqvist. Krug, who scored in each of the first two games, had his goal-scoring streak snapped.
It’s helped that the forwards have been quick to shuttle pucks up top before the Rangers can pressure the points. It also helped Boychuk that Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell broke for the net prior to his goal. The additional bodies didn’t help Lundqvist in tracking the defenseman’s shot.
“Sometimes the forward will tip it and it will go in, or it will miss,” Boychuk said. “But we’re hitting the net and it’s been going in. We’ve just got to keep doing the same thing.”
Neither Dennis Seidenberg nor Wade Redden returned to the lineup in Game 3. Both defensemen participated in Tuesday’s optional morning skate. Seidenberg was one of the last four players remaining on the ice, joining healthy scratches Aaron Johnson, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jay Pandolfo.
Even if Redden returns to good health, the veteran might not displace Krug on the third pairing.
The Bruins haven’t minded Krug’s defensive game. He is a mobile but undersized left-shot defenseman similar to Andrew Ference and ex-Bruin Don Sweeney, now one of the team’s assistant general managers. Krug must rely on positioning and stickwork more than strength to make defensive plays. In Games 1 and 2, Krug and Adam McQuaid played against New York’s No. 3 line of Taylor Pyatt, Brian Boyle, and Derek Dorsett. The third-liners are heavy, physical players.
“When he came to our team, because of his size, we wanted him to learn how to defend,” coach Claude Julien said. “It’s not always about strength. It’s about smarts and being in the right position. You’ve got to make the other guys beat you back to the net and get through you before they get to the net. I think he’s done a great job of that. It’s about adapting. He’s got some strengths, obviously, on the offensive end of it. But he’s also a good player that defends really well for a guy his size.”
Both Seidenberg and Redden are expected to practice Wednesday. Given how well the six healthy defenseman have performed, it’s unlikely either Seidenberg or Redden will play in Game 4.
Essensa steps in
Tuukka Rask did not participate in an optional morning skate on Tuesday. Goaltending coach Bob Essensa manned one crease while Anton Khudobin patrolled the other net. Julien cracked that the 48-year-old Essensa needed to loosen his equipment. As expected, a red-faced Essensa earned some chirps as he trudged into the dressing room following the on-ice session . . . The third line of Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly remains the only line without a goal in the series. Lundqvist stoned Kelly and Seguin on first-period breakaways . . . The Bruins didn’t have a single power play in Game 3. Based on the repairs some of their faces required, the Bruins should have drawn at least several calls. Zdeno Chara was clipped in the face. Patrice Bergeron took a hit that earned him some stitches around his right eyebrow. The Rangers’ Steve Eminger caught Seguin up high in the third period. “I guess we’re used to it during the year,” said Bergeron, whose team drew the fewest amount of power plays in the NHL during the regular season. “We’re a team that needs to make sure we’re ready to battle and get those. It’s OK. In the playoffs, you can’t complain. It’s about finding a way five-on-five. We’re a good five-on-five team, so we’re fine with that.” . . . The Bruins were 2 for 2 on the penalty kill. They have not allowed a power-play goal during the series . . . Matt Bartkowski led the Bruins with six hits.