Matt Boldy’s 3-1 goal late in the third period looked like it was going to be the game-winner for quite some time.
And then it wasn’t, and the Americans needed a way to grab the lead back. Arthur Kaliyev did just that with just over a minute to go, but that meant crunch time for a team that was getting heavily outplayed in the final period of play. With 15 seconds left, the puck made its way to Ville Heinola, and he unloaded a wild slap shot.
In comes the #BoldyBlock.
The Americans held on for the win, but had Boldy not laid his body on the line to deflect the puck, we could have been talking about a completely different outcome. But that’s the type of player Boldy is: at one end of the ice, he’s chasing down defensemen to steal the puck and make a play for a linemate. At the other end, he’s getting ready to put in an ad for some replacement arms and legs.
He might need a new eye after the high-stick that led to his goal just minutes later.
Since getting selected 12th overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2019, Boldy’s game has taken a much bigger power forward approach. With his big frame, he’s not afraid to park himself in front of the net push guys around, and that hard work often sees him outmuscling people in front of the crease to knock in a goal. That’s different from his late days in junior where he appeared best as a puck-carrier, but when he’s got skilled linemates around him, Boldy has been able to develop his power forward game in a meaningful way.
The fact that coach Nate Leaman isn’t afraid to throw Boldy on the ice in any situation is a testament of how the coaching staff feels about his play.
“He’s even better than I thought he was, even seeing him in Hockey East,” Leaman said. “He’s very good on down-low offense, but he’s smart, he’s rangy, he’s unbelievably slippery for a 6-3 guy, getting out of tight spaces. And he’s at his best when he’s getting to the net – he got another goal at the top of the crease.”
But it wasn’t always that way for Boldy. He struggled out of the gate as an NCAA freshman at Boston College and didn’t make USA’s roster a year ago, worrying some Wild fans that were once very hight on the top prospect. Boldy’s game was built around skill, but the transition to college was a tough one.
But as the season went on, Boldy quickly became one of Boston’s best players on any given night. That was amplified in 2020-21 when Boldy recorded eight points in four games before leaving to USA’s camp – but this time, his inclusion was never in doubt.
With five goals and seven points through six games with the United States, few players have been as important as Boldy ahead of the team’s run to the gold medal game. Center Trevor Zegras has been the obvious star with 16 points in six games – one of the best performances from the nation’s history at the tournament – but Boldy has been valuable in many other ways.
His aforementioned block wasn’t the one late-game deflection he’s had, and he’s been generally viewed as one of the more buzz-worthy players in any game. Just pick one from the tournament to watch without knowing the outcome and there’s a chance you’ll notice an eye-popping play to get the puck on net or a bit hit or two to get his teammates going.
“He’s a pretty special player,” Leaman said earlier in the tournament. “He’s unique — 6-foot-3 with hands like a 5-foot-9 guy.”
When you have a player that can dangle his way out of trouble and park him right in front of the goalie, you’re not going to have much success defending him. Boldy’s between-the-legs goal against Austria was a highlight of the tournament itself, but Boldy was ultimately a dominant presence even when he wasn’t the one with the puck. Boldy has been seen often in this tournament waiting for a pass, but then drawing out a defenseman before cruising back in and going for a rebound. That resilience to make that work, but without putting himself in a bad position, is exactly why Boldy has been so successful thus far.
Boldy’s game transfers so well in many facets of an NHL lineup. He doesn’t need to physical to be effective, but he doesn’t need to score to be, either. A future as a third-line winger isn’t ideal, but if that, for example, became the case, Boldy could fit that role. Or maybe he does indeed becoming a top-six winger that can score, hit and kill penalties while maintaining an incredible amount of energy at the end.
After all, he’s a do-it-all type of prospect. Remember that late-game block if the Americans win gold.