The New York Islanders are arguably the best story in the NHL this season. A big part of the Isles success this year is due to the fact that Johnny Boychuk is leading the way.
In the first half of the season, the Cinderella team in the NHL is the New York Islanders. In the off-season every NHL insider – expert predicted gloom and doom for the blue and orange. The Hockey News in their annual season preview magazine said the Isles will finish dead last in the Metro.
On the Ice
On the ice, this has been Boychuk’s best season since his first year with the Isles (2014-15). While Boychuk is not a guy you want on your fantasy team, he is a rock in his own end and has provided timely goals this season, including Saturday nights game-winner in St. Louis.
When the game is on the line in the third period, one of the defensemen that Barry Trotz trusts the most is Boychuk. Boychuk was on the ice at the very end Saturday night in St. Louis with the Isles holding on to a one-goal lead. It wasn’t surprising that Boychuk had the final and key clear that secured the Isles win.
Another big key is Boychuk has stayed healthy this season. The soon to be 35-year old blue liner has missed chunks of time the last couple of seasons, including last year where he played in 58 games. This season has been a different story as he has only missed one game this year and that was due to the fact he recently became a father again.
Off the Ice
Off the ice, Boychuk has been preaching what winning hockey is all about (playing the right way in their own zone) since he has arrived on Long Island. Boychuk was preaching Trotz’s philosophy before he every became the Islanders head coach.
Last July, Boychuk told The Athletic’s Arthur Staple how the Isles are a good team and that they will make a lot of hockey prognosticators look foolish who buried them for the upcoming season. Boychuk told Staple:
“That’s just a slap in the face when I see it. Our team is really good. I think we’re going to show them we are a good team.”
Boychuk has been one of the leaders on this Islander squad both in terms of the entire team as well as the Isles young D-man group.
Remember entering this season Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield did not have a lot of NHL experience. Throw in the fact rookie Devon Toews just joined the group as well and Boychuk’s leadership on the back end has been invaluable.
The Isles are having a heck of a season and Boychuk is a big reason why.