Boychuk excited to play hometown Oilers

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Boychuk excited to play hometown Oilers

Johnny Boychuk is a proudNortheast Edmonton boy, and always looks forward to games against his hometown Edmonton Oilers.

It makes sense since Boychuk is just old enough to remember the glory days of Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers dynasty while growing up with older brothers in a bona fide Canadian hockey hotbed. In fact the 27-year-old probably most vividly remembers the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals victory for the Oil over the Bruins as six year-old just starting to collect a lifetime of hockey memories. He sees plenty of similarities between Edmonton then and Boston now as the two teams clash at TD Garden on Thursday night.

"It reminds me a lot of New England now with all of the championships going around except it was just hockey in Edmonton growing up, said Boychuk. Theres always a little extra when youre playing the team you grew up watching. I always dreamed of playing for or against the Oilers growing up, and now Ive been able to do it a couple of times.

I remember the last time we played them it was an afternoon game after we had played Vancouver, so it was a little more rushed than this one. So Ill be sure to enjoy it, but I enjoy every game that we play.

In that game in Edmonton last season Boychuk had three shots on net in 22:20 of ice time, but wasnt able to get on the scoresheet in a 3-2 win for the Bs.

Funny enough, Boychuk said he didnt grow up pretending to be The Great One or Mark Messier, though, and he always knew he wanted to be a defenseman from the time he was a young shaver. Little Boychuk dreamed of being Al McInnis or Ray Bourque while growing up on the frozen ponds of Edmonton, but still appreciates how much history the Oil bring with them to Boston.

Boychuk has three points and a plus-4 in his 13 games for the Bruins in 20:04 of ice time this season, and is off to the best start of his career in Boston entering an important free agent year. So theres also a chance for Boychuk to build on the consistent, solid start hes had with the Black and Gold this year, and show some of the steady improvement that Claude Julien has seen throughout Boychuk's three seasons in Boston.

I know Johnny Boychuk has been here for three years, but we sometimes forget hes only just 26 years old and still getting better each and every year, Julien said. Johnny has been one of our best defensemen so far this season, and hes starting to get more consistent night in and night out.

Boychuk gets another chance to add to that newfound consistency and maybe even collect a point or two for the legions of Boychuk family members that will be tuning in to see what happens when Johnny Boy takes on the Oil for the second time in his young NHL career.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.