At 35 years old, it feels like Johnny Boychuk isn’t getting any younger.
A member of the New York Islanders for five years now, Boychuk is the oldest defenseman in the organization and oldest player on the current team. That might seem like a detriment for an Isles franchise that’s trying to get younger — they currently are ranked as the oldest team in the NHL — but age has become just a number.
Boychuk’s solid start to this season continues to be a reminder that what he brings to the Islanders can’t be understated. Take the plays he made last week against the Blues and Jets to help the Isles win.
With 30 seconds left in regulation and the Islanders still down 2-1, Boychuk — who was running on fumes — was able to block the Blues’ clearing attempt with his skate, even though he was turned around at the blueline. Then as Brayden Schenn went to clear the puck again, Boychuk on his knees swatted the loose puck which ended up on the stick of Mathew Barzal. Barzal turned and let a shot go that tied the game and sent the Nassau Coliseum crowd into a frenzy. In Winnipeg last Thursday night during the second period of a 1-1 game, he batted a clearing attempt by the Jets’ Josh Morrissey out of mid-air which led to an odd-man rush for the Isles where Barzal scored the game-winning goal.
— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) October 18, 2019
“He’s old school,” Trotz said to reporters about Boychuk’s effort.
That’s the perfect way to describe Boychuk. Old school. In this day in age where the NHL is all about speed and skill, the type of game Boychuk plays has become relegated. But he continues to always plug away, throw the body, and sacrifice his body blocking shots.
“Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, but, at the end of the day, how many people can you imagine battle as hard?” Trotz added. “How many people are committed to blocking shots? How many people will give you every ounce of what they have to get something done?”
That type of mentality is what has endured Boychuk to the fans ever since he was traded here. He’s not one for the glitz or the glam. No, he brings that gritty style and gets the job done when asked. Not to mention, he can also still rip it with his booming slap shot.
Boychuk, in his own words, has also come into this season fully healthy. It’s shown too. In seven games played, the veteran d-man has three points in seven games. Boychuk is also second behind Devon Toews in points for a d-man. His physical presence hasn’t dissolved, as his 15 hits also rank him third on the team. Also, as of last week, Boychuk ranked fourth in the NHL with a blocked-shot-per-60-minute rate of 7.74/60.
It’s good to see him at full strength and producing, because, when Boychuk is not in the lineup the Islanders are a different team.
According to Islanders statistician Eric Hornick, the Isles’ record when Boychuk is on the ice is 187-119-41, With him absent for 66 games and 58 games in consecutive years — 2016-17, 2017-18 — the Isles were the worst team defensively in the NHL; the latter being the worse. In the playoffs last spring, Boychuk suffered a broken foot in the clinching game of a four-game sweep of the Penguins. The setback cost him the rest of the playoffs and the Islanders, missing him severely, were swept by Carolina.
With two years left of his seven-year, $42-milllion deal he signed in 2015, Boychuk isn’t going anywhere soon. It would be stunning to see Boychuk dealt unless g.m. Lou Lamoriello can pull a rabbit out of his hat. Of course, things can change. And even with rookie Noah Dobson continuing to bang on the door for a regular role and him getting close to his late 30s, Boychuk’s value is still up there as one of the most important pieces on the team.
The Islanders have continued to build to a brighter future. Boychuk has been a part of it since the beginning. He’s been everything as advertised since day one. Expected to be sort of a non-factor this season, he’s been ageless in his approach and the Isles are reaping the benefits.
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