Washington Capitals rookie Travis Boyd hasn’t spent much time in the NHL, but the Hopkins native and former Gopher has crammed plenty of memorable moments into his limited experience.
Take his first career point, a spinning, no-look backhand pass that superstar Alex Ovechkin converted for a goal on March 18.
Boyd’s playoff debut was in Game 6 Monday, when the Capitals finally outlasted the rival Penguins 2-1 in overtime to advance to the Eastern Conference final for the first time in 20 years. And one of his shifts in the first period that game came against superstar Sidney Crosby.
“I’m out there trying to figure out what we’re going to do on the faceoff,” Boyd said. “I see Crosby hop over the boards, someone I grew up watching and idolizing and wanting to be just like. To be able to go out there and play against him and play against him in a playoff game where your season is on the line and everything like that, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Now the Capitals are on the brink of another best-of-seven test, this time against the Lightning. How much of a factor Boyd will continue to be remains to be seen.
But what is clear is how instrumental the minutes the 24-year-old has already logged this season have been, as Boyd’s long-awaited opportunity has made him feel he’s ready to stick in the NHL.
“Ultimately, [I’m] hoping to take that next step in my personal career and become a full-time NHLer hopefully next season,” he said.
After getting drafted in the sixth round, 177th overall, by the Capitals in 2011, Boyd suited up for the Gophers for four years before turning pro.
Once he graduated to the American Hockey League, he logged two full seasons — more than 150 games — before finally appearing with the Capitals last December.
“It definitely was long, and at certain times you start thinking maybe you don’t get that chance,” Boyd said. “But you just gotta stick with it and continue to try to get better every single day.”
A scant scorer until his senior year at Minnesota, the center has had a knack for potting goals in the AHL. He had 21 his rookie campaign, 16 in 2016-17 and another 15 this season. Four of those came in one game, after Boyd had spent time with his daughter Hayden while she dealt with a throat infection and subsequent surgery.
“It honestly had to be a higher power helping me,” he said.
Boyd has notched only one point in the NHL, but it was highlight-reel material — that slick setup to Ovechkin against the Flyers in his fifth game.
“For the rest of my life I can say that my first point was on an Alex Ovechkin goal,” Boyd said. “… He was nice enough to give me the stick that he scored with, and I got him to sign it. It’s definitely something that will be hanging up on a wall of mine for quite some time.”
When Boyd worked with Ovechkin, Evgeni Kuznetsov was sidelined. Earlier in the season, he appeared twice in December while Andre Burakovsky nursed a thumb injury.
Even his latest look, in the playoffs, was precipitated by the absence of Nicklas Backstrom because of a hand injury. Boyd ended up skating 12 minutes, 12 seconds in Game 6 and had a shot on goal.
“Just a surreal experience,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much fun it was to be a part of that game and be part of winning that series.”
Backstrom is still day-to-day.
“If I do get another chance to play in playoffs, I hope I can go out there and do well and help the team get a win,” Boyd said.
And if he doesn’t, this season has still been a meaningful journey that Boyd hopes leads to a permanent place in the NHL.
“My childhood dream came true this year,” he said. “I got to play in the NHL, and I got to see what it was like. All the times that you would sit there as a kid and pretend that you’re playing in it or dream about what it’s going to be like, I got to live it this year and it’s unbelievable. It’s the best time of your life.”