SAN JOSE For Dan Boyle, one measly inch has made all the difference.
Prior to the Sharks home game against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 8, Boyle shortened all of his sticks by that length, after he noticed they were a bit too long when compared to last season.
I brought a stick from home that I used last year to the rink, and they were about an inch off, he said. Somewhere along the way this year, they got off track. They were all an inch too long.
Since then, Boyle has felt much more confident on the ice, specifically when handling the puck.
Yeah, big time, absolutely. Its made a huge difference, he said. Every hockey player knows. An inch doesnt sound like much to most people, but to us, its a huge difference. Ive certainly felt better handling the puck. Big difference.
Its shown not only in his play, but on the scoresheet, too. Boyle had a goal and an assist in Colorado on Tuesday, and another assist against Chicago on Sunday. He had gone nine straight games without a point from Nov. 12 Dec. 3, but appears to be finding his game after an inconsistent-at-best start for the veteran defenseman.
His shot totals have also risen. Boyle has 18 shots in his last five games since he fixed his sticks, including 13 in the last three games.
I have the puck on my stick a lot, and I get a lot of shots blocked, too. Just trying to find a way though, he said. Its hard. A lot of teams are playing the same way or collapse in front of the net and youre shooting through three or four different bodies. You have to earn your shots.
Without getting into specifics, Boyle mentioned after Tuesdays 4-3 shootout loss to Colorado that hes had a tough start of the season physically, as well tougher than at any time in his career, in fact.
He was asked to elaborate on that after Fridays practice at Sharks Ice.
I dont want to come across as being whiney and stuff, but Ive just gone through a rash of injuries 30 games in that have been pretty bothersome, I guess, he said.
Again, I dont want to come across as a guy thats whining and making excuses because were all playing with injuries, but its been extra hard this year. Through 30 games Ive had a number of things that have bothered me, but Im starting to come out of it now.
What may also be aiding Boyle is that with regular partner Douglas Murray out with a broken hand, Boyle has been paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has been the clubs steadiest and best defenseman this season.
Its been going really good. Were getting more looks offensively, and hes been playing well all year, said Boyle of his partner.
Still, Boyle senses the biggest improvement has come in his own game.
Ive just been playing a little bit better lately.