Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Fennelly: For Lightning's Brian Boyle, winning and family go hand in hand

He was born into a team. That's important to know when talking about Lightning center Brian Boyle. He's the seventh-oldest of Artie and Judy's 13 children. The Boyles of Hingham, Mass. Deep roster. • Meet another one. And right in the middle again is the Lightning's big brother. • The Lightning is heading home — to the conference final. It's anything but routine, but it has happened three times in six seasons. Meanwhile, going deep in the playoffs is what Boyle does nonstop. Winning follows him around. • He joined the Lightning last season, and the team made the Stanley Cup final. The year before, Boyle helped the Rangers to the final. And he once led Boston College to consecutive NCAA championship games. • Lost those finals. Lost those title games. • Duly noted. • "Yeah, I'm tired of finishing second," Boyle said with a smile a few weeks ago. • Here he is, chasing that championship with his latest batch of brothers.

"I love the family thing," Boyle, 31, said. "I've been blessed to have people around me my whole life. I've always been on a team, been part of something. It's always about more than one guy. It's amazing when you can accomplish things, especially difficult things. Any kind of success you have, when you can share it with people, it's that much more special."

Put together a list of Lightning headliners and Boyle's name isn't on the front page. Fine by him. But in that dressing room, he's a towering figure, and not just because he's 6 feet 7. There's quiet leadership and confidence. The term "glue guy," cliche as it is, sticks to Boyle.

Plus it has been an eventful postseason for the big fellow. Not that last year's playoffs weren't (Boyle's wife, Lauren, gave birth to Declan, their first child, during the Eastern Conference final), but this year has been different.

There was Boyle's rousing "chicken dance" in the Detroit series as he skated away from fightless bird Justin Abdelkader. That will be a righteous highlight if the Lightning eventually puts together a championship video.

"Hopefully it becomes something," Boyle said. "But we're not there yet. We're not there."

Early in overtime of Game 3 in the Islanders series, it was Boyle who (legally) crushed Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, who had rocked Jonathan Drouin earlier in the game and Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman with a head hit late in the regular season. Think Boyle hadn't jotted down Hickey's license plate?

There's more. Boyle followed play into New York's end and scored the OT winner.

There's still more. Boyle scored in the Lightning's Game 5 clincher with a nifty pass to himself (absolutely Vinny Lecavalier-esque) before he roofed one.

It's not what you would normally expect from Boyle, but the guy will fool you. Big as he is, he's no oaf. He's a deceivingly good skater, has great hands and can finish what he starts.

Maybe we lose sight of that because he's busy doing so many other things — leading the penalty kill, winning faceoffs, factoring in on the Lightning power play he joined late in the season. Last year, Boyle even joined the defense when the team's back line was ambushed by injures. He's a little bit of everything, with a knack for delivering in moments that matter.

Question: If the Lightning wins the Cup, does Boyle land on Dancing With the Stars or a Chick-fil-A billboard or both? Someone tell the cows they're out.

"I didn't picture some of the things that have gone on," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Know what you picture? You picture a guy who's going to help you get to a conference final and the Stanley Cup final and eventually win the Stanley Cup."

You picture Brian Boyle, showing up wherever and whenever he's needed. Anything for team and family.

 
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