Brock Boeser has arguably been the Canucks’ best and most consistent player this season. He leads the team in goals and points and has played at a high level right from the season opener, which can’t be said of the other potential candidates for team MVP.
Before we can talk about Boeser’s excellence this season, however, we need to talk about his body.
It’s not what you think! The reason we need to talk about Boeser’s body is because he keeps talking about his body.
Boeser dealt with an ugly injury in his rookie year when he got hit into an open door at the Canucks bench by Cal Clutterbuck. He suffered a non-displaced fracture of the transverse process in his lower back, which is less dangerous than a fracture elsewhere along the back but can still cause severe pain, swelling, and inflammation.
“It was the worst pain probably I’ve ever had,” said Boeser after the season was over.
Early this season, Boeser admitted that the injury caused long-term issues that even affected his shot.
“I would say not necessarily has [my shot] been there, especially after my back injury, because that gave me a lot of problems after. It was a pretty bad injury,” said Boeser after he scored two goals in the season opener.
Then Boeser gave a reason for why he was feeling better about his game and his shot heading into this season: “Knowing my body now and knowing what I need to feel good, I’m feeling confident and I feel like my shot’s back where it was my first year.”
That confidence showed even in training camp, where he was unleashing his wrist shot with the same zip it had in his rookie season. The key to that confidence and Boeser’s bounceback season has been greater understanding of his body and what it needs.
“Even last year, I think I was still learning stuff about my body from past injuries and different exercises I need to do to prep,” said Boeser a couple of weeks into the season. “I'm feeling really good right now. I feel like I know what I need to do before each and every practice and game to stay on top of my body and I feel like it's showing on the ice.”
On Monday, Boeser provided more detail as to how knowing his body has helped his shot.
“My rotation to the left, last year and kind of in the playoffs, it wasn't great,” said Boeser. “It definitely feels freer now and easier to rotate that direction so I think that's really helped a lot.”
As a right-handed shot, Boeser needs to rotate hard to the left in his core to shoot the puck. Any tightness in his back that might hinder that motion wouldn’t just present a physical obstacle but also a mental obstacle. It’s hard to have confidence in your shot when it feels like your body isn’t doing exactly what you want it to do.
Now, however, Boeser has a greater knowledge of how to prepare his body, which has resulted in far more confidence that he can do whatever he sets his mind to during a game.
“Taking care of you know that area since my first year, I've grown to know what I need to do and if something gets tight, what I need to do to take care of it,” said Boeser. “I definitely have a nice list of things I do before each practice and game to make sure I'm feeling good and stay on top of things, so there's definitely a lot behind the scenes.”
Boeser admitted that when he entered the NHL, he felt like his body was almost invincible.
“I was definitely like that my first year. I was kind of confused why guys would always go in the treatment room,” he recalled with a laugh. “I definitely do a lot more than I ever did my first year.”
Now he shares that same knowledge with younger Canucks that might be feeling the same invincibility of youth — such as Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Nils Höglander — about how to prepare your body both on a game-by-game basis and also for the long grind of the season.
“I've definitely talked to younger guys, I remember talking to Petey and Huggy in the past about it and I think they're doing a good job,” said Boeser. “I've been talking to Högs to really stay on top of taking care of your body because these seasons get long and there's lots of games and you got to stay on top of it.”