Underappreciated Boyle Shining for Sharks

Dan Boyle is a six time 50-plus point defenseman. He is an All-Star, he is a gold medal winner, and a Stanley Cup winner. This season is Boyle’s fourth in San Jose since coming over via trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the 2008-09 season. All Boyle has done since is record three straight 50 plus point seasons, played in two All-Star Games and won a gold medal with Team Canada. He is without a doubt one of the top 10 defenseman in the world.

Since the start of the 2005-06 season  (the first after winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning), Boyle has registered a whopping 329 points from the blue line in just 466 games. That is the second most points-per-game amongst NHL defenseman during that span, second only to future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom.

Boyle averages 0.7 points per game. And he is no slouch in the defensive zone. Unlike many “puck-moving defenseman” Boyle is above average without the puck, which catapults him from just the label of a “puck mover” into that elite defenseman category.

San Jose’s No. 1 defenseman may not have the punishing slap shot or physical dominance of a Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara (have to give him a break he’s only listed at 5’11 and believe me, that’s generous) but Boyle makes up for it with on-ice vision that is absolutely unbelievable.

Yet somehow, for some reason, a slow start to this season (11 points in his first 25 games) had some fans and bloggers calling for the Sharks to trade him.

The second most consistent defenseman over the last decade deserves much more leniency from his fans than just 25 games.

This is the same defenseman who bounced back from an embarrassing own-goal in OT of a playoff game by scoring the very first goal of  the following game.

This is the same defenseman who played through a broken thumb to star the 2009-10 season and didn’t miss any action because of it.

Sports fans talk all the time about certain players being so called “gamers.” The types of players that give everything they have for their team on a nightly basis with disregard to their personal well being.

Dan Boyle exemplifies this definition to a tee and along with being an All-Star talent, that’s really all you can ask for in an athlete.

Recently Boyle admitted that he played a large portion of the current season with a broken foot. He didn’t miss any time and nobody outside the Sharks organization knew a thing about it.

Finally healthy, (as much as hockey players can be) Boyle has turned up his game. Saturday against the Washington Capitals, Boyle chipped in three assists. And he backed it up Tuesday night with arguably his best performance of the season.

Despite the fact San Jose fell short to the Wild 5-4 in a shootout, Boyle should have been the first star of the game. In fact, it is quite a disservice that he wasn’t one of the three starts. Got to wonder what game the Minnesota crew was watching.

Not only did Boyle record three points (a goal and two assists), but he came through in the clutch when the Sharks absolutely had to have it.

San Jose found themselves down 4-2 with less than four minutes remaining when Sharks head coach Todd McLellan paired together his two big-name defenseman in Boyle and Brent Burns.

Normally these two don’t play together at even strength but San Jose needed their big guns to come through. And Boyle led the way. Logan Couture scored after Boyle and Burns had settled things down at the offensive blue-line and banked home a shot off a Wild defenseman. Boyle earned the secondary assist on the play.

The tying goal is where Boyle really deserves all the credit in the world and he didn’t even earn a point on the play. If there was ever a goal that should have been credited with three assists, it was Marleau’s game-tying goal which came just 22 seconds after Couture’s tally.

With a hard forecheck in his face, Boyle made a brilliant pass from near his own goal line right between the outstretched sticks of two Wild players right onto the tape of Joe Pavelski. Immediately as the pass hit Pavelski’s tape the Sharks had a clear cut three on two attack.

Tic, tac, toe, Pavelski to Thornton, to Marleau, goal. All started by the phenomenal heads up pass by Dan Boyle.

Without question, he deserves better from the Sharks’ impatient fan base…

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