Boychuk delivers against Blackhawks

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Boychuk delivers against Blackhawks

CHICAGO Johnny Boychuk has always prided himself on being a big game player, and he brought his entire arsenal to the table in an early season must-have game against the Blackhawks in their anthem-cheering barn.

So it probably shouldnt be much of a surprise that Boychuk manned up against the Blackhawks, and put on an active, physical, offensive effective delivery of his defenseman skills in the Bs 3-2 shootout victory Saturday night at the United Center. Boychuk doled out a team-high six hits of punishment including a standup job on Jonathan Toews in the second period that sent the message.

We knew that we needed at least a split on the road trip . . . It wasnt the greatest first period in the world, but we battled back to make sure we got the win, said Boychuk. I thought our game went exactly the way we wanted it to after the first period. We didnt do anything fancy. Just made the simple plays and made sure to get the puck in deep and onto the net.

Even better: Boychuk set up Nathan Hortons game-tying goal in the third period that pushed overtime and the shootout, and found a way to blend all his hockey potential into 21:48 of vintage performance.

It was Boychuks best game of the season and a perfect time for each member of the defense corps to step up their game with the transitional skill and dangerous scorers that Chicago was throwing at them.

He had a great game tonight. Johnny was a really good player for us, said coach Claude Julien. It was fitting that he set up that tying goal because he was one of many that we really felt like picked up his game tonight.

Most interesting of all was that Boychuks game didnt shoot up to optimum levels until he thought hed broken his right arm following a hit in the corner of the defensive zone by Daniel Carcillo.

Boychuks arm was pinned against the boards and Carcillo crashed right into with excruciating force, and then the defenseman had his right arm caught with a Duncan Keith slap shot from the right point. He skated off the ice in the first period following the shift whole holding his right arm precariously, but came right back like a man possessed for the rest of the game.

His active stick and skates were poking pucks away and breaking up passes through the evening, Boychuk kept his feet moving and then finally made the play that helped win the game midway through the third. The Bs defenseman was simply going to dump the puck in the offensive zone, but then saw that he had the corner on his Chicago defender and simply carried through behind the Chicago net.

I just wanted to get it in deep, but once I knew I had him beat I just wanted to get the puck, said Boychuk. I saw Horton and went around the net to get the puck to him he knew where to put it.

One wouldnt be blamed if they thought Boychuk was a power forward winger simply driving toward the net, and working perfectly in tandem with Tyler Seguin and Horton on the play.

He played really well tonight. I thought Boychuk was my winger for a second there when I saw going on with the puck, said Seguin. I thought it was Horton, but obviously Horton ended up shooting the puck.

Boychuk find Horton waiting all alone in front and fed him a perfect pass from behind the net for a one-time wrist shot that tied the game at 2-2 and effectively earned Boston at least one needed point amid swirling chatter of Stanley Cup hangovers and crippling starts to the season.

Kudos clearly should go to big money players like Tim Thomas, Seguin, Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg for similarly upping their games in a time of need, but it was Boychuk really helped set the tone for a must win over the Blackhawks only five games into the season.

Its time for Boychuk to bottle that kind of effort and save it because the Bruins will need much more of it before the year is over.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.