Washington Capitals forward Travis Boyd is missing. Well, technically, he’s not missing. During almost every game he can be found in the press box watching the game from above. But he’s been missing from the lineup too often recently.
Boyd played in the first five games following his recall from the minors on 11/20/19, skating while Carl Hagelin was out of the lineup with an upper-body injury. Since that five-game stint, Boyd has dressed for only seven of the Capitals’ 24 games. In fact, Travis has only played once since the turn of the new year, taking Alexander Ovechkin’s spot against Montreal last week while the captain served his one-game suspension for skipping the All-Star Game.
Why Travis Boyd is consistently a healthy scratch is a bit of a mystery. He is a high-energy player that skates hard each shift. He is a good checker and does solid work along the boards. His positive impact should be obvious even to casual viewers. Boyd is an “effort” player on a squad that sometimes needs reminding they play 60-minute games.
Clearly, Travis Boyd passes the eye test, but finding him a spot in the lineup is not as easy as it seems. If Boyd gets a sweater, who doesn’t? The seemingly obvious answer on the tip fans’ tongues is probably Richard Panik.
The winger struggled early in the season, both adjusting to a new team and suffering an injury. Some consider him a disappointment relative to his salary. However, Panik’s play has improved and the third line is finally beginning to gel. The fourth line, where Boyd has logged time at center, has been heralded for its puck possession and rough-and-tumble, sandpaper style. Nic Dowd has locked down the 4C position.
Does a statistical examination make a stronger case for Travis Boyd to crack the lineup? Yes and no. Looking at possession numbers, Boyd falls in line with any of the players he could potentially push onto the bench.
His Corsi For Percentage (56.3%) is higher than Richard Panik’s (53.0), Nic Dowd’s (55.4), Garnet Hathaway’s (54.0), and Brendan Leipsic (53.9), but obviously not by much.
There are similar results when comparing Fenwick For Percentages. The point is, in terms of possession and style of play, not much separates these bottom-six forwards. There would not be any drop-off in possession with Boyd on the ice. Where Travis Boyd can stake a claim is offensive production.
Boyd has only played 20 games yet has posted 3 goals and 5 assists. His .45 points per game rank ninth on the team and are the second highest (behind only Lars Eller) of the bottom-six forwards. His 2.33 points per 60 minutes is seventh on the team and is best among those considered bottom-six forwards.
In December, Coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post, “Travis’s offensive numbers and opportunities that he gets speaks for themselves”. The offensive numbers give Travis an edge.
Yes, the Capitals sit atop the NHL standings. They are obviously doing plenty right. However, there is always room for improvement. Todd Reirden clearly sees Travis Boyd brings energy to the club and produces when given the opportunity. It won’t be easy, but it is time the coach gets Boyd out of the press box and onto the ice more often.
By Bryan Hailey