OTTAWA – Although the Sharks played two lackluster periods in Toronto on Tuesday night, there was one player that noticeably had his legs going.
Mikkel Boedker has not gotten off to a very productive start with his new team, struggling to do, well, much of anything despite a four-year, $16 million contract awarded him over the summer. The low point came on Nov. 26, when he was benched in the third period of a 3-2 loss to division rival Anaheim.
But there he was at Air Canada Centre, getting a point blank chance with the Sharks shorthanded in the first period, driving the net and making Frederik Andersen make a tough pad save early in the second, cutting to the crease on a power play midway through regulation, and dancing around Roman Polak a few minutes later but losing the handle at the last moment.
The 26-year-old was, simply, the team’s best forward in their third period come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win, even if he couldn’t quite finish.
Speaking before Wednesday’s game in Ottawa, it was evident that he’s feeling more comfortable and confident in the way the coaching staff wants him to play, even if he still has just five points (2g, 3a) in 30 games.
“The systems [are] finally catching up with me, and I’m pretty sure what to do out there now and I’m making sure I do the right things,” Boedker said. “It’s just a matter of trying to be in the right places, and obviously at some point you have to break out. The last five games have been pretty stellar, so I just have to continue doing that.”
Just playing, and not overthinking what he’s supposed to be doing, has been the key.
“Finally you get to a point where you don’t have to think about the systems anymore,” Boedker said. “It’s part of your game now, and you can just focus on playing your game and try to help the team win.”
Coach Pete DeBoer was critical of Boedker’s compete level when he decided to make him ride the bench three weeks ago. Boedker himself seemed to admit as much, and when asked if he was trying to “do too much” because of the circumstances, joked, “I think I was trying to do too little.”
Getting more serious, he added: “You always want to create and make sure that you show everybody that the team made the right choice. I’ve been trying just as hard to do that. … Now it seems like it’s starting to fall into place and [I’m] starting to get those chances that [I] should be getting.”
DeBoer is encouraged by what he’s seen from Boedker lately.
“The offense is going to come. But, when he starts stringing together some games like you’ve seen here lately, that’s the player that I know,” said DeBoer, who once had Boedker in junior hockey. “I think we’re just scratching the surface of what he can do.”