|Blues forward Brad Boyes is proving last season's career-high of 43 goals is no fluke (Getty Images). |
Brad Boyes knew people outside the St. Louis Blues locker room were asking, "Can he do it again?"
He also understood it to be a fair question.
Boyes scored 43 goals last season, 17 better than his previous career high, a mark he set in 2005-06, and 26 more than he totaled in 2006-07.
"I didn't want to think about it," Boyes told NHL.com.
Instead, the Blues right wing spent the summer asking himself a different question.
"It was what do I have to do to make sure I do it again?" Boyes said. "What did I do last year? What was my mindset? It was play your game, feel good, earn every shift and, when you get a chance, to shoot the puck on net."
Following the same blueprint, Boyes is off to a similarly hot start and is on pace to set another career high in goals. Asking for 50 might be a stretch, but Boyes is on his way to proving 40 was no fluke.
He already has 7 through 9 games this season and the Blues are 5-4 heading into Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who may or may not have Sidney Crosby in the lineup.
"Now we've got a standard for him and it's our job to hold him to that," Blues coach Andy Murray told the Belleville News-Democrat. "It may not be 43 goals on a yearly basis, but he needs to be an offensive producer for us. His shot is so good, and he gets rid of that puck so quick."
More than shooting, Boyes said his positioning was the key to his success last season. A lot of his goals came off passes from Paul Kariya, whose ability to play with the puck allowed Boyes to find his way to the net, where he got a lot of his goals.
"Paul is a great passer, so for me it was just rooting off of him and getting open; he would find me," Boyes said. "If I was in the right spot, it gave me a chance to put the puck on net. A lot of times, the puck had eyes. I just had to get to the net."
Ironically, Boyes hasn't spent too much of his 5-on-5 ice time this season with Kariya. He's been playing with Andy McDonald
and Lee Stempniak, but Boyes' production hasn't waned largely because of McDonald (team-high 11 assists), as well as the Blues superb power play.
Entering Friday night's action, the Blues had the top-ranked power play in the League, and they're doing it with 5 forwards on the first unit. Kariya and Stempniak are at the points. Boyes, Keith Tkachuk and McDonald operate down low.
The Blues have scored 31.7-percent of the time on the power play. Thirteen of their 29 goals this season have come with the advantage. Boyes has 3 power-play tallies, but the big surprise is Tkachuk's 8 goals, including 6 on the power play.
"It comes down to shooting," Boyes said. "Both (Kariya and Stempniak) have great shots. They can get the puck through and that's key. Getting the puck and shooting early. Montreal is one of the best teams that does that and so is Detroit. As skilled as (the Red Wings) are, the amount they shoot on the power play is relative to how good they are."
Boyes, though, admitted the Blues are concerned about their lack of 5-on-5 production. Even though they're outscoring the opposition by 5 goals, 15 players currently sport a minus rating, including everyone on the first power-play unit.
Carolina blanked the Blues power play Thursday, and, in turn, won the game, 1-0.
"The biggest thing is we have to score goals, period," Boyes said. "There is always something you want to look at and improve, and for us right now it's 5-on-5. We have to be better at that, but if we win every game by scoring 6 power-play goals and no even strength goals, we'll take that."