|Johnny Boychuk has an ‘interesting’ return to Boston||10.24.14 at 1:41 am ET|
The toughest part of Thursday night’s return to Boston for Johnny Boychuk came during the national anthem.
“Just feeling the atmosphere and being back on the ice,” Boychuk said. “I tried not to look anywhere but just concentrate, and be prepared for the game. That was the most difficult part, but after the first couple shifts, then it’s time to get going.”
Boychuk was a plus-1 in 23 minutes and 25 shifts in the Islanders’ 3-2 win over the his former team at TD Garden. Only one of his “Johnny Rockets” found its way on net and it was stopped. He had two blocked shots and two giveaways. Boychuk did not figure in the scoring but was just happy to be apart of a night of appreciation from the Bruins fans who had watched him grow up in Boston.
“It was an interesting night,” Boychuk said. “You’re playing against that team, and you grew up with them, playing, for the last six years, you see them and you’re the opposition now. Looch [Milan Lucic] steamrolled me, so I’ll get a nice chuckle out of that when I see him. They’re a good team. We came in here, we were determined, and we held them off in the last five minutes. They had some good chances, but the other ex-Bruin [Chad Johnson] made some great saves for us, and kept us in the game when we needed it.”
|Pierre McGuire: ‘Hated’ Bruins’ schedule to open season||10.23.14 at 2:12 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB in advance of Thursday night’s Bruins matchup against the Islanders. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins got off to a slow start to the season — going 1-3 in their first four games, but McGuire said some of that was because of the way their schedule was constructed — playing those four games in a six-day span.
“I hated the way their season started, not the way they were playing, but the way the schedule was set up for them,” he said. “I think I talked to you guys about it, they almost had eight days where they had three games in four nights. That’s crazy stuff. Then, when you compound that with a [Monday] afternoon game at home after a Saturday night loss, that’s really hard. I’m not making excuses for them, but they are starting to settle into what team they want to be.”
He also noted the team was coming off of trading veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders, just prior to the regular season.
“I think they were all a little stunned about Johnny Boychuk being traded to the Islanders because he was an extremely popular guy on their team,” said McGuire. “They started the season without Gregory Campbell, he’s a very important guy on that team. I think they are feeling their way through, but they are starting heat up. I liked their game the other night against San Jose, especially the last parts of that game.”
The Bruins and Boychuk will be reunited Thursday night as the Islanders will be at TD Garden. Boychuk has had a strong start to the season, posting two goals and four assists over the first six games.
Speaking to WEEI.com earlier in the week, Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk said that though being traded away from Boston was difficult, he saw the move coming to an extent.
“They didn’t tell me [their plans], but we all knew,” Boychuk said. “You knew that somebody was going to get moved. Even if you don’t watch hockey, you would know that somebody’s going to get moved, just because we had eight guys.
“You’re not going to carry two extra D-men. We usually [carried] one, but you’re not going to carry two. They thought they got the best deal for me, so that’s the way it goes. That’s the way the league is.”
Boychuk said that he figured that Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller were safe from being traded, leaving him on a short list of defensemen the B’s could deal. His cap hit ($3.36 million) was the highest of the group, which also included Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski.
Peter Chiarelli said after trading Boychuk to the Islanders that negotiations never started for a contract extension with the free-agent-to-be before the B’s traded him. The lack of communication on a new contract made the trade less of a surprise for Boychuk.
“We didn’t talk, so I just figured something’s probably going to happen,” Boychuk said.
Boychuk was waking up from his pregame nap the day of Boston’s last preseason game when he got the call from Chiarelli.
“Peter phoned me when I was just waking up from my pregame nap, because I was supposed to play [against Detroit],” Boychuk said. “As soon as I said ‘Hello’ and he said, ‘Hi, Johnny, this is Peter,’ I was like, ‘Ugh.’ You know that you’re getting traded when Pete calls you.”
As for the reception he expects from the Boston crowd Thursday night, Boychuk said he expects an emotional return.
“[Expletive],” Boychuk said. “That’s going to be … different. It’s going to be hard. It will definitely be hard.”
Click here for Wednesday’s feature on Boychuk and here for the Bruins’ thoughts on Boychuk’s return to the Garden.
|Tuukka Rask, who knows who Johnny Boychuk is, prepares to face Johnny Boychuk||10.22.14 at 2:10 pm ET|
“Oh, is he playing? I hope he gets the start. It would be good for him,” Rask said Wednesday when asked what it would be like to play against “Johnny.”
Proving that goaltenders live in their own goaltending world, Rask thought that the “Johnny” being discussed was Islanders backup Chad Johnson, who spent last season playing in Boston with Rask.
Rask laughed when he realized his error, adding that he obviously wished the best for his former teammate. He did note that if he allowed a goal to Boychuk, who has already scored twice this season for the Islanders, Rask would “never hear the end of it.”
“He actually texted me after he got traded,” Rask said. “He said whenever we play I should give him a goal, but I hope he doesn’t score.”
Rask was then reminded that he already has a big contract, while Boychuk is in the final year of his contract. If Rask were a true friend, he’d help Boychuk boost those numbers and net him a bigger payday.
“Yeah, well if the game’s 9-1 or something for us, then accidents happen,” Rask said with a grin.
As for Boychuk himself, the 30-year-old is loving life with the Islanders, but said it will be very difficult to take the ice Thursday (and undoubtedly receive a warm welcome) in front of the Garden crowd.
“[Expletive],” Boychuk said this week when asked what he expected. “That’s going to be… different. It’s going to be hard. It will definitely be hard.”
Claude Julien said he’s happy for the early success Boychuk has had with the 4-2-0 Islanders. Boychuk’s six points through six games are as many as he had in the lockout-shortened 2013 season with the Bruins.
“He’s a good team guy. He’s an easy guy to like for players and coaches,” Julien said. “He came in and played a big role in our Stanley Cup run. Many thought he’d be an American Leaguer. We traded for him and he stepped up and became a really reliable defenseman in this league, and obviously a good defenseman. We lost a good person and a good player.
“You’re always happy that he’s happy well — of course you’re going to hear us say except when it’s against us, but I don’t think there’s anybody here that wishes [anything] but the best for him. Then you move on, and that’s what we’re trying to do. Hopefully he’s done the same thing. He seems to have done that. When you look at his start with that team, he’s had a good start as well.”
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Bruins ‘going to be a ton of fun to watch’||10.09.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his first weekly appearance of the season Thursday on Middays with MFB, following Wednesday night’s Bruins opener. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
McGuire said there is reason to believe the Bruins, who opened with a 2-1 victory over the Flyers, will be able to overcome the losses of Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk and put together a season similar to 2013-14, when they had the best record in the NHL before falling in the second round of the playoffs to the Canadiens.
“They have a healthy Chris Kelly, I think that makes a big difference,” McGuire said. “Carl Soderberg is a ton better, you saw that last night. I think Loui Eriksson will be a ton better this year. Dougie Hamilton, even though he had a couple of turnovers, you could see when he really amped his game up he was very good. Having Dennis Seidenberg back makes them better. Tuukka Rask is a year more mature.
“I think they’re a lot better in a lot of areas. I think they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. I’m not changing on that; I won’t change even when we’re on Game 40, barring injuries, obviously. I think this team is extremely good.
“I like the energy of a young player like Craig Cunningham. I love the energy of Bobby Robins. They obviously got last night done without David Krejci and Gregory Campbell. This is a really good team. They’re really a good team, and they’re going to be a ton of fun to watch.”
McGuire said he saw lots of promising things from the opener.
“I thought Tuukka when he had to be was really good,” he said. “I thought Kevan Miller played a solid, physical game. I like the way Torey Krug started to jump into the rush. And I like the way that the Bruins defensemen really held the offensive blue line. And probably more importantly than anything else they’re much more aggressive offensively. I know it didn’t translate because I thought Steve Mason from Philadelphia played a great job so the scoreboard’s not indicative of that. But by and large they’re a much more aggressive offensive team, and I think that’s really important for them.”
Looking at the Eastern Conference, McGuire said the Bruins’ biggest challenge might come from the Lightning.
“I think Tampa Bay’s a very good team, and I know a lot of people are talking about them, but I would look out for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I would be a little bit nervous about them,” McGuire said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how everything translates in Pittsburgh, because it is a little bit of a different roster, it’s a different coaching philosophy going from Danny Bylsma to Mike Johnston. So we’ll see how that plays out. … I don’t know if there’s a team outside of Tampa and maybe Pittsburgh that’s going to be able to play and have enough depth to play against Boston. Boston’s just that good. Montreal’s really good, I just don’t know if they’re big enough to play against Boston when Boston’s healthy. Boston’s a really, really good team.”
|Andy Brickley on MFB: ‘Expect further moves to be made’ by Bruins||10.08.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his first weekly appearance of the 2014-15 season Wednesday, hours before the Bruins drop the puck against the Flyers in the opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.
Prognosticators think highly of the Bruins heading into the campaign, and Brickley explained there’s a good reason for that.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten better in any one particular area other than a little bit more experience,” Brickley said. “I think they have the strengths that most teams that want to be an elite team have. You try to build teams from the goal line on out. So they have a goaltender that won the Vezina in the last year, obviously, Tuukka [Rask] is tremendously talented and calm and has that demeanor that everybody likes to play in front of.
“They have a real good defensive corps led by Zdeno Chara. They play a defense-first system. They play a backchecking formula that really, really pays off, which is one of the main reasons that they play four lines. The demand by Claude Julien and his coaching staff to have that back pressure to help out the team defense part of the game is almost unmatched across the league. And it really stands out when you break down tape just how committed the Bruins forwards are to get back and play defense and pressure the puck and try to turn defense into offense with turnovers and control the middle of the ice — that’s that straight-down-the-middle phrase that I use.
“And then try to have their offense be a balanced scoring attack along with quality special teams. They were the third-best power play in the league last year, that has a lot to do with the infusion of young talent that they got — like a Dougie Hamilton, like a Torey Krug, they both play power play on different units. Reilly Smith comes in in that deal for [Tyler] Seguin, he gives you a different element, a little bit more speed, a little bit more skill up front. It allows Chara to play the front of the net — whether you thought that was going to be a successful and productive experiment or not, it has paid off for the Bruins.
“So, that’s the formula for success. That’s why the Jeremy Roenicks and the Barry Melroses feel that the Bruins, relative to every other team in the Eastern Conference, that they’re right there at the top.”
Adam McQuaid probably hoped that he would have been a top-4 defenseman by the time he reached his fifth full NHL season. Now, he kind of is. Maybe. For now.
McQuaid, who has played on Boston’s bottom pairing throughout his NHL career, figures to open the regular season as Dennis Seidenberg‘s defensive partner on Boston’s second pairing, by the looks of morning skate. The spot was held by Johnny Boychuk throughout training camp, but Saturday’s trade of Boychuk left an opening to be filled by McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski or Kevan Miller.
The guess here is that it will eventually be Miller, but for now, McQuaid, who hasn’t played in a regular-season or playoff game since last January, is getting his shot.
“I did feel like [I could be a top-4 player] when I could get some consistency and play a little more,” McQuaid said Wednesday. “I think everyone’s always looking to continue to take steps, but it was kind of hard when I was in and out of the lineup so much.
“It is a great opportunity, but I just need to focus on what I do and not look at as any different as a situation. Whoever I’m playing against, play hard and be aware of who’s out there. That’s all you can do.”
McQuaid and Seidenberg have not played much together in the past. Seidenberg has typically played on Boston’s second pairing in the regular season before playing on the top pairing in the postseason. McQuaid has remained a third-pairing guy.
“We haven’t played with each other a ton, but it’s one of those things,” McQuaid. “We’ve had the same group here for quite a while, for the most part. Guys have been comfortable playing with one another, but we’ve got some shifts together in the preseason. I think he’s a pretty easy guy to play with, so I’m not too worried about that.”
Look for the Bruins to take their time as they try different players with Seidenberg in order to find a full-time Boychuk replacement. For now, it’s McQuaid. The first step to keeping the job will be staying healthy.
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