Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk is keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. Today he discusses how he found out he was going to play in a game again, gives his thoughts on Marc Savard skating with the team, shares what Zdeno Chara told him when he came back, and reveals why his stick is covered in tape? (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
It feels great to be back on the ice. It's way better than sitting out, that's for sure. I'm close to a hundred percent now, more or less. I wasn't even expecting to play in Thursday's game against the Panthers. Right before the game they told me. I was actually feeling pretty good. I knew I was a game-time decision. We had warmed up and I still didn't know I was playing. It wasn't until 15 minutes before the game that I saw they were talking to Adam [McQuaid]. ... When I saw him getting undressed that's when I figured out I was playing. As soon as I got out there I just was worried about doing my job. I remember thinking, "Alright finally, I get to get back in the lineup."
I tried to keep things simple in my first game back. It was hard to adjust to actually playing the game. There are certain transitions that you don't really get in practice that you get in the game and positional play I have to get used to still. It's also getting used to the tempo again. It was so great to be skating with Z [Zdeno Chara] again, even if I'm not skating with him full time. It's great skating with everybody and being back with the whole team. I did appreciate Z telling me it was nice having me back, which he told me as soon as he saw me practicing with the team.
When I wasn't playing I was working out with Savy [Marc Savard] and Sturmy [Marco Sturm]. Working out with them was much better than by myself. It was great to see Savy skate on Saturday. It felt like our first practice of the season, like finally you get to play with the guys again. When I wasn't playing, I was up on the ninth floor of the Garden watching the home games with Savy, Krec [David Krejci] and Sturmy. In New York last week, I watched the first and second periods in the press box. But the third period I decided I'd rather watch in this room where there was a TV because I didn't really like watching in the press box in New York. New York was the only road game I traveled to when I was hurt.
When I was watching the games, what I look for is what the defense is doing. I look how the penalty kill is handled by us. Looking for how far we're going up to the dot or how far we're going towards the board. I also look for when we're pressuring on the power play and what kind of penalty kill the other team has. How we're trying to break them down, just different things like that.
I will say, watching the games this year is different from the beginning of last year when I wasn't playing at all. I knew last year that I was still healthy to play and I wasn't playing. Rather than this year where I was injured and I couldn't really help the team even if I wanted to. So that's different. There was one game I really was dying to be in, the game against New York. I really wanted to be on the ice that night because I got to be on the ice for warm-ups. I was excited just to be around the guys again.
Since I didn't really travel with the team very much, I spent my time back here in Boston. I feel like I didn't do a whole lot, though. I walked around and shopped some. I did see one movie, Saw "3D". It was terrible. I didn’t like it at all. It wasn't scary and I don't recommend it at all.
I think the team did really well in my absence. We battled hard and played well. The defense did well and our goalies were making good saves too. We didn't win every game but we had a chance to. Timmy [Thomas] has been on a hot streak, which has been nice to see. I like seeing that Timmy is doing really well this year. It's also good to see Tuukka [Rask] get his first win and shutout last Thursday [4-0 win against Florida].
I know for a stretch over the past month the guys were having trouble scoring, especially at home. Lately things have turned around and I think the difference is just bearing down and getting shots on the net. We're making sure we bury chances when we have one. Working hard and just maybe getting the bounces too has helped.
So here's a fun fact about me: I guess people have been remarking that I have really long feet when they see me in skates on the ice. I wear a size 12 skate and usually 13 shoe. I believe I have bigger feet than Z.
I'm trying to think what's been going on in hockey news lately that I can comment on. Well, I know the NFL changed their rules in the middle of the season about helmet-to-helmet hits. The NHL changed some of their rules at the beginning of the year to try and cut down on concussions as well. There's penalties now for blindside headshot hits and stuff like that. I like it and think it's a good thing.
Also in the news, I just heard how the All-Star reserves will be picked by the captains, kind of going back to school yard pick-up game rules. Tell you what, if I was the last one picked I wouldn't be upset about being picked last, I'd actually think that was great. It probably won't happen but it would be fun to be an All-Star no matter how you get on the team.
In the last diary, I had a comment from JohnnyH_Bruins who wrote, "I sat next to the stick rack at the 10/19 game against the Caps in DC, and noticed that you have a really interesting grip on your stick. Any chance you might be able to let us know what you feel its benefit is, and how you started using it?"
I think what he's talking about is how I have tape all over my stick. I used to put sticky stuff all over my stick and then it was getting too wet. So then I switched it to just putting tape around the shaft of my stick because it was too wet and I couldn’t shoot because my hand would be slipping when I’d go to shoot because of the wetness. I don't even remember when I started doing this, it's been that long. I'll just say I started doing this a long time ago.
Keep the questions coming, happy to answer whatever you want to throw at me!