Brock Boeser’s revived goal scoring gets the headlines, but that’s not all he’s vastly improved upon this year
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
24 days ago
Brocktober has turned into Novoeser, and still #6 on the Vancouver Canucks keeps rolling along.
It’s going to take more than a simple turn of the calendar to slow down the phenomenon that is 2023/24 Brock Boeser.
Two more goals against the Edmonton Oilers put Boeser at a total of ten goals through the season’s first 12 games. Those ten goals are, as of this writing, second-most in the NHL behind Auston Matthews and his 13.
It’s also, quite easily, the greatest goal-scoring rate that Boeser has put together for any sustained period of his career thus far. Right now, he’s at 0.83 goals-per-game, which is almost exactly double his goal-scoring pace during his rookie and sophomore seasons.
His per-60 rate is even more impressive at 2.7 goals-per-60, a downright silly number.
That goes along well with five assists for a total of 15 points on the season and a PPG of 1.25.
It’s safe to say then, that for the time being at least, elite NHL sniper Brock Boeser is back.
Back and…better than ever?
It would seem to be true.
Because not only is Boeser scoring like he’s never scored before, he’s also doing a lot of other stuff on the ice better than he ever has before. It’s just that those things don’t quite grab as many headlines as ten goals in 12 games, for some strange reason.
Let’s start with Brock Boeser: Playmaker?
Five assists in 12 games is a respectable number. But it’s not, unlike goal-scoring, the highest rate at which Boeser has produced helpers in his career. Right now, he’s at 0.42 assists-per-game and 1.3 assists-per-60, which are fine enough rates, but a little behind his career bests (0.51 per-game and 1.7 per-60).
But what he might lack in quantity, Boeser has made up for in quality. All five of his assists on the year have been primary assists. And several of them have been setups of the kind that we just haven’t seen Boeser attempt, never mind succeed at, before.
When you’re hearing commentary about Boeser channeling “his inner Henrik Sedin,” you just know he’s hit a new level of pass-making.
But goals and assists aren’t the only ways in which Boeser is contributing to the offence. He’s also developed an unexpected propensity as a net-front presence.
They don’t hand out points for a well-timed screen on the goaltender leading to a goal. But if they did, one has to imagine that Boeser would be close to the team lead for 2023/24.
In other words, the numbers will say that Boeser has directly contributed to 15 of the Canucks’ league-leading 54 goals. But those actually watching the game will be able to tell you that Boeser has actually been in on even more offence than that, bringing him closer to participation in a third-to-50% of the team’s tallies.
And we’re not done heaping on the praise quite yet, either. Because as fantastic as all that offensive production is, none of it represents what has been Boeser’s singular area of greatest growth, which is as a defensive forward.
Boeser is never going to be a Selke candidate. But his reputation for own-zone play has varied wildly over the span of his career, ranging from “decent” to “atrocious” and everywhere in between.
His 2023/24 performance has been, at the very least, better than decent.
At even-strength, Boeser has been on the ice for 11 Canucks goals and just three from the opposition. A +8 rating at evens is exceptional through a dozen games, but it goes a little deeper than just goal-differential.
The answers aren’t found in his fancy stats. Boeser’s possession and control metrics are all hovering around the middle of the Canucks and are all a little below the 50% threshold. He’s got a 47.92% Corsi (tenth on the team), a 40.16% xGF (17th), and a 47.10% control ratio (ninth). None of which are anything to write home about, on the surface.
What makes Boeser’s defensive performance in 2023/24 really stand out is the context. He and his linemates still control a good chunk of play, and have only let in three goals against, while facing a deployment chart that looks like this:
You’re not reading that wrong. It does say that Boeser has spent the majority of his minutes this season matching up against opposing top lines, and almost always skating away ahead in the exchange.
And, sure, that’s not just down to Boeser’s play. He’s been stapled to JT Miller and Phil di Giuseppe all season long, and those two have been carrying their fair share of the defensive load along the way. But Boeser’s own-zone play is right up there with theirs. And that can be tracked in some key isolated matchup stats.
The opponent who Boeser has played against the most through 12 games? Connor McDavid, at 25:22 of shared ice-time. During those 25 minutes, Boeser’s team has three goals, and McDavid’s has zero.
Boeser’s Corsi rating against McDavid is 33.33% (repeating, of course), which doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but is when you consider that the Canucks’ team Corsi rate against McDavid without Boeser on the ice is 21.28%.
Again, much of that credit is due to Miller, who has been a true two-way force out there. But suffice it to say that Boeser has, at bare minimum, been a defensively-sound accompaniment to Miller’s shutdown duties. And perhaps much more than that. Even Boeser’s hits-per-60 rate of 2.39 is the highest of his career, and he’s been involved in far more scrums than usual.
Pick an area of the game, and chances are good that Brock Boeser is contributing more to it for the Vancouver Canucks than ever before in 2023/24.
It’s only been a month, but what a month it has been. To say that Boeser is on track for the best season of his career is true enough, but doesn’t quite cut it, does it? More like Boeser is on track to reinvent and redefine his career.
Don’t call it a comeback. We’ve never seen this Brock before.
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