BOSTON – A couple of sneaky hits from Ryan Kesler, and a dangerous hit from behind by Kellan Lain on a play that should have been blown dead for icing, got Johnny Boychuk riled up Tuesday night.
The happy-go-lucky Boychuk is a punishing physical player when pushed in that direction, and he was definitely nudged that way -- and then some -- in Boston’s 3-1 victory over the Canucks at TD Garden. It started with Kesler hitting Boychuk from behind after the siren sounded at the end of the first period. It continued with Lain wallpapering him into the boards in the second period on a race to the board for the puck that should have been, but wasn't, called for icing.
“When something like that happens to you, you get a little ticked off,” admitted Boychuk. “You want to just crush people. I mean it’s not a big secret. You just have to try and do it cleanly.”
Boychuk did that, and then some. He threw three registered hits in his 24:04 of ice time, and David Booth was on the receiving end of each of them – whether it was a hip check to stop Booth’s speed or a head-on collision as both players were sprinting full speed toward a 50/50 puck battle.
It didn’t go unnoticed by teammates who thrive off it, and coaches who appreciate it.
“It really picks up your team," said coach Claude Julien. "That’s the way we play the game. We like to play a heavy game, and to me, Johnny was at his best here tonight.”
Clearly Boychuk’s physicality was one component in the B’s victory over the Canucks, but he also contributed on the scoreboard as well. Vancouver had cut Boston’s lead to 2-1 in the second period after a Raphael Diaz point shot, and the Canucks then spent a long time in the Bruins zone. Boychuk and Booth had battled it out during the possession, and the Bruins defenseman was gassed at the end of a long shift.
It was then that he hooked up with a streaking Daniel Paille, feathering a perfect stretch pass to free the fourth line winger for a breakaway.
“I was really tired, I'm not going to lie," said Boychuk. "We were out there battling and, you know, I just looked up and Danny was coming off the bench. I just had to make the pass, [but it's] not as easy as it looks, especially when you’re at the end of a long, long shift.”
Paille made it look easy by scoring between Roberto Luongo’s leg pads, and that was the insurance marker Boston needed to salt away the victory. But this one was less about flashy goals or breakaway chances, and much more about Boychuk setting the edge with punishing hits throughout a clean, intense game.