Mikkel Boedker’s assist in Tuesday night’s win over the Montreal Canadiens was an example of why the San Jose Sharks signed him last summer.
He used his speed in transition against a reeling Habs defense to create a quality look off of an odd-man rush, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to bury the ensuing rebound. The problem is that those moments are becoming increasingly rare.
Boedker’s only shot on goal and only shot attempt on Tuesday night came in the aforementioned Vlasic goal. That’s become all too common for the Danish forward this season.
He’s attempting shot attempts during five-on-five play at the second-lowest rate of his career, according to Corsica Hockey, and is generating about one-and-a-half fewer shots every 60 minutes at even strength. Combine that with a career-low five-on-five shooting percentage (3.23 percent), and Boedker’s on pace for one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.
As disappointing as Boedker was last season, he only scored two fewer goals at even strength than he did the season before hit free agency, and one fewer point playing five aside. His five-on-five shot attempt rate was the highest of his career, and his shot rate was the second-highest.
Of course, he was also healthy. Boedker played in all but one game last season, but has missed seven already this season with a lower body injury.
It appears that he’s just starting to get over what ailed him. After going shotless, pointless, and playing fewer than nine minutes a night in his first two games back from injury, Boedker generated seven total shots, two assists, and played more than 10 minutes in his last four.
Only once before this season has Boedker shot at least once in four (or more) consecutive games, and that was about a month before he went on injured reserve. The Sharks are tremendously tight-lipped when it comes to disclosing injuries, so it’s fair to wonder how long he was playing hurt.
So even as Boedker hasn’t bounced back in the way he or San Jose wanted, his recent play is fairly encouraging, as the Sharks desperately need him. He may not be used in a top-nine role, but with Barclay Goodrow injured, Jannik Hansen struggling, and Danny O’Regan not quite ready for a roster spot, the Sharks don’t have any viable alternatives for Boedker’s spot in the lineup.
With two years and a $4 million cap hit remaining on his deal, Boedker won’t net much on the trade market, either. So, the Sharks have little choice but to rely on him to contribute.
If plays like his assist against Montreal become more frequent, San Jose won't mind having to do so.