Lost in last night’s marathon triple-overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks was just how impressive one member of the Boston Bruins looked in particular. Its even more impressive considering how lackluster his regular season was.
Milan Lucic finished the night with two goals and an assist, another feather in his cap from a postseason where he’s looked absolutely revitalized. For the playoffs, he’s posted five goals and 11 assists for a total of 16 points. For those wondering, that’s two goals shy of his regular season amount.
Its safe to say the 2013 regular season was not one of Lucic’s shining moments. Coming off back-to-back years in which he scored over 60 points, Lucic was quite a disappointment this time around. Not only was he staying off the scoreboard, he just wasn’t engaging at all some nights.
When he’s on his game, Lucic is one of, if not the most intimidating players in the NHL. The big-bodied power forward chases pucks into the corners and is a wrecking ball for anyone that happens to be in the way. Keep an eye on any player who gets caught in his path. More often than not, you’ll see said the skater pull up or flinch a bit out of fear of getting decked. Lucic’s sheer size and strength is enough to get opponents off their game, thus creating chances for Boston.
However, this year Lucic often looked completely out of it. He didn’t seem as motivated as he typically does, and this resulted in a disinterested and sometimes lazy playing style. He wasn’t scoring and was rarely getting physical; it had a big hand in the final underwhelming months of the Bruins’ season.
Boston markets themselves as a team that is tough as nails, and its remarkable how quickly that mantra gets thrown to the breeze when Lucic isn’t himself on the ice.
People were wondering if the lack of offseason activity during the lockout had affected his overall conditioning. He also became a father for the first time earlier in the year, and many suggested this may have been distracting him.
Regardless, the final blow came when coach Claude Julien decided to scratch Lucic for a game late in the season in an attempt to shake him out of his funk. One can only hope this bold move was what finally did the trick.
Ever since the postseason started, Lucic has been playing like a man possessed. He’s skating with a vengeance, making his presence known anytime he touches the ice. Most importantly, he’s brought his physical game back into the fold. It is a huge reason why his line, including Nathan Horton and current playoff points leader David Krejci, has been one of the best in hockey for the past two months. Lucic is also utilizing his size and strength in front of the net, as there aren’t a ton of defenders out there that can keep him out of a goalie’s way.
However, he, along with the rest of the Bruins, learned last night how tough this series with the Blackhawks is going to be. Chicago is certainly going to bring everything they’ve got for each game of this series, something Boston may not be used to after a couple breezy series against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
If Boston indeed wants to be the team hoisting the cup when this is all said and done, they’ll need Lucic to continue his outstanding play. It is a huge reason why they’re even here in the first place.