For Brad Boyes, playing at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston last week was a homecoming of sorts…but then again, not really.
The 6’0, 195-pound forward skated in 144 games during his two seasons with the Bruins, which by far is his longest tenure with any NHL organization. But it was hardly enough for Boyes to make a big deal out of his return.
It’s probably safe to say the phrase ‘make yourself at home’ hasn’t really applied to Boyes much.
A victim of three trade deadline-day deals, the 25-year-old forward hasn’t had time to get comfortable in an NHL city. A 24th overall draft pick of his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000, Boyes never got the chance to suit up for the Leafs. He was traded to San Jose in 2003.
“You think about it and it’s kind of a bittersweet sort of thing,” Boyes said about getting traded without getting to play in Toronto. “It would have been great [to play there], but at the same time, it’s such a tough place to play and play consistently there. Being in a different market sometimes isn’t bad.”
After just one NHL game with the Sharks, Boyes was switching markets again when he was traded in a deal that sent him to Boston, along with Andy Delmore, for defenseman Jeff Jillson in 2004.
On a line with Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm in his first year with the Bruins, Boyes posted career-highs in games played (82), goals (26), assists (43) and points (69). But the next year, his linemates were constantly being shuffled and he struggled, posting just 34 points in 62 games before being traded to the Blues for defenseman Dennis Wideman on Feb. 27, 2007.
Now with nearly a full season under his belt in St. Louis, Boyes is beginning to get comfortable. Standing on the blueline with his head down as he listened to the national anthem last week, Boston no longer felt much like home. With the exception of a few cheers from the Bruins’ faithful, it was just another road game.
“We got in, we practiced, we had an (NHLPA) meeting and I had dinner with (Bergeron), who I hadn’t seen in awhile,” Boyes said. “It wasn’t like we were there for a few days. It was kind of in and out. There wasn’t much time to sit and ponder.”
|Boyes scored 26 goals and 43 assists for Boston in his first full season in the NHL, but was traded to the Blues after struggling in his second season with the club. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) |
And just like so many other ordinary games this year, Boyes lit the lamp, recording his 21st goal [ 700K
] in a 4-1 victory. His goal, which came after a pretty backhand pass from Jay McClement, stood as the game winner. The best screenwriters in Hollywood couldn’t have come up with a better script than this.
“That was awesome. You put the emotions of being there aside, you want to win, you want two points,” Boyes said. “Obviously in Boston, it’s a little more special.”
In St. Louis, Boyes has been a special find. He has spent all but a few shifts playing with Paul Kariya and has succeeded with every center he’s played with, from Keith Tkachuk to Doug Weight and more recently, Andy McDonald
In fact, McDonald got off to a slow start with Anaheim this season before recording five points in his first four games with Boyes.
“With Paul and Boysie, we have a little bit of chemistry there,” McDonald said. “Boyes is probably a natural finisher, goal scorer and shooter, so you want to give him the puck as much as possible. I think it’s a nice balance on our line.”
As of Dec. 28, Boyes ranked eighth in the league in goals with 21, which puts him just five goals short of his career-high less than halfway through the season.
“I think everyone changes every year, you experience change,” Boyes said. “For me, I’m definitely a different player than I was last year or two years ago. All the knowledge you pick up when you go through different seasons, and obviously I’m scoring a few more goals than I have before.”
With numbers like this, Boyes can be a little less nervous when the Feb. 26 trade deadline rolls around this season.
So could St. Louis be home sweet home for Boyes?
Blues fans can certainly hope so.