BOSTON -- Pregame predictions aren't just for pundits.
Just ask Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk what he was chattering about with his teammates Wednesday before the his team's 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at TD Garden.
"I think me and [Milan Lucic] were talking about it beforehand. He's like, 'You know? You always do really well in playoffs.' I'm like, 'Yeah, I know. I think I'm going to score tonight,'" Boychuk told NHL.com on Thursday. "And I go out and score. I told [Jay Pandolfo] that before the game too. That's funny.
Boychuk put the final dagger in the Maple Leafs with a shot from the right point late in the second period that seemed to vanish and then reappear behind Toronto goaltender James Reimer. Boychuk will look to keep his offensive game going for the Bruins in Game 2 on Saturday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).
The 29-year-old had plenty of history on his side before he made his prediction then backed it up, despite having scored one goal in 44 games during the regular season. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a boon to Boychuk's scoring totals. In 2009-10, he scored twice in 13 playoff games after he lit the lamp five times in 51 games in the regular season.
During the 2010-11 run to the Stanley Cup, he matched his 69-game regular-season total of three goals in 25 postseason games. Now he's matched his total from the entire 2012-13 regular season, which saw one of his 75 shots on net get past the opposing goaltender.
"It's always nice to score. If somebody says that they don't like scoring they're lying to you," said Boychuk, whose career-high for points is 16 in 2010-11. "But that's like extra, I think. Through the regular season there's probably chances to score, and [pick up] assists. And you either miss your chance or the other guys miss a chance. But you've just got to put it behind you and just try and do the same thing. And in playoffs, it's just … I don't know what it is. … People seem to bear down."
Luckily for Boychuk, the Bruins don't count scoring as his primary role. For the third straight postseason coach Claude Julien has shifted defenseman Dennis Seidenberg onto a shut-down pair with perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara and slotted Boychuk on the right side of veteran Andrew Ference. Those pairs don't play together much in the regular season.
Every series, Chara and Seidenberg get the task of shutting down the other team's top line. But playoff teams almost always have plenty of secondary scoring, and that's where the Boychuk-Ference pairing comes in. Boychuk and Ference were strong enough together to help the Bruins win the Cup, and they aided in the Bruins keeping the Maple Leafs off the score sheet at even strength in Game 1.
"I think we just read each other pretty well," Boychuk said. "It obviously helps when we're talking a lot. We did that [Wednesday] and we benefited from it."
Julien talked about how when constructing his playoff defense pairs he always starts with Chara-Seidenberg then slots the others in behind those two stalwarts. Despite some regular-season struggles, Julien decided to reunite Boychuk and Ference for the postseason opener.
"It's a little bit of what we do with the other guys and what's left and what you want to do with the other pairings," Julien said. "I mean, one of the guys has a lot of experience, and that’s Ference. He's been around for a long time and he's a smart defenseman.
"The other one [Boychuk] has been pretty solid. Like everybody else this year, I'm sure he wants to kind of finish off better than the regular season was for him. But he's been a solid defenseman, physical, he's always in the pluses as far as plus/minus every year. So very dependable that way. And he's still a pretty decent defenseman when he gets a chance to get that shot off. Offensively he certainly contributes that way, as well."
Boychuk was a plus-5 this season and is a plus-58 in 246 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he's a plus-14 in 46 games.
Maybe there will be more offense from Boychuk during this year's playoffs, or perhaps his biggest contribution the rest of the way will be preventing scoring. There's no way to predict what the future holds, but Boychuk would be wise to follow what his coach told him after he scored his Game 1 goal.
"I told him [Wednesday]," Julien said, "that's what happens when you hit the net."
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