New challenges has Boyes contributing in other ways for surging Blues
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Since his arrival in the spring of 2007, Brad Boyes has been touted as the go-to guy, the sniper every team possesses, and visions of Boyes unloading the one-timer from the left circle is what's given him a name in this city.
And to the Mississauga, Ontario product's credit, he hasn't disappointed in his first two full seasons with the Blues.
Boyes has averaged 38 goals per season in his two years here, and the Blues justified those numbers by rewarding him with a hefty four-year, $16 million extension.
So when Boyes heads into tonight's matchup against the New York Rangers at Scottrade Center, it will be game No. 47 and fans will still be asking what's wrong with Brad Boyes.
Boyes comes in with nine goals on the season and is on pace for 16 goals this season, which would be his lowest output in any full season.
But what some may not understand is that Boyes is not necessarily relegated to the sniper's role. His assists are up once again -- he leads the team with 22 assists and 31 points.
Boyes is on pace for 39 assists, which would match last season's output, and now under new coach Davis Payne, Boyes has added another element to his game: playing a hard, physical, forechecking style and doing well with it on a line with Jay McClement and Alex Steen.
A top-six forward throughout his young career, it's the little things that don't always add up on the stat sheet that has Boyes playing some of his more consistent hockey in recent memory and the Blues geared to win a season-high fourth in a row.
"The last couple years have been good," Boyes said. "I've always been a guy that's gotten more assists than goals. I enjoy setting up plays. You've got to score to win games ... my job is to create offense, create opportunities. I definitely love scoring goals, and that's something I do have to get back to. ... I've definitely gotta be that guys that can score goals. You have to look at it if you get one, they'll come, but if that's not working, you have to find other ways to contribute and if it's trying to set guys up, then that's the offense that we need. Whatever I can do in a positive way is what's best for the team. Whatever I can do to help the team is all I care about."
Payne will not be one of those that will criticize Boyes and his lack of goal production, because the 39-year-old Blues coach sees what many may not view as vital.
"You look at the play late in the game against L.A. where they make a play to the back side and Brad's collapsed down, makes the read and disrupts the play," Payne said. "That was a one-goal hockey game.
"Earlier in the game, he had made a play coming out of the D-zone, great battle intent, makes a great play up the wall. Now all of the sudden, we've got a 2-1 lead going into the locker room."
And there was Boyes, creating the first Blues goal in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Columbus in which a hard forecheck forced a turnover that led to B.J. Crombeen's goal 1:54 into the game.
It was Boyes using his 6-foot, 200-pound frame that forced a turnover by Columbus' Jan Hejda.
It was the kind of precise play that led Payne to the idea of putting Boyes with a couple energy linemates.
"I think he's done a lot of things well," Payne said. "What led me to that is simply looking from a strict matchup perspective, putting a little more responsibility to play that 200-foot game but also having that matchup be a group that can apply pressure in the offensive zone. Brad has done a great job in understanding the intangibles that are involved in those situations, the defensive responsibilities."
It's certainly understandable why Blues fans are wondering why Boyes hadn't lit t he lamp more often. The drop in goal production is also reflected in Boyes' shooting percentage.
When Boyes scored a career-high 43 goals in 2007-08, he was scoring at a 20.8 percent clip, which is a career-best shooting percentage. Last season when he netted 33 goals, Boyes' shooting percentage was 15 percent.
However this season, it has been a struggle at times, and the shooting percentage is reflective at 7.8 percent.
But as all scorers feel, it's just a matter if time before they go into the net in bushels. If they don't, Boyes doesn't mind being a factor in other ways.
"I've had some chances," Boyes said. "It's just a matter of bearing down and putting the puck into the net, but the team concept is what matters and if I contribute in other ways and we're winning games, that's what matters to me most."
* NOTES -- The Blues assigned veteran forward Derek Armstrong to Peoria, as it appears that enforcer D.J. King will be sent to Peoria as well on a conditioning stint. ... David Backes led the Blues with six hits in Thursday's 1-0 win over Minnesota. ... Defenseman Mike Weaver had six blocked shots in the game, including a key block on Antti Miettinen with 4:48 to play in the game. ... Defenseman Barret Jackman led the Blues in ice time Thursday, playing 25:09. ... Center Jay McClement won 15 of 19 faceoffs Thursday, a 79 percent clip. ... Left winger Paul Kariya led the Blues with six shots.