Lucic breaks out of slump at perfect time


Lucic breaks out of slump at perfect time

By Danny Picard

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Following Game 7 of the Montreal series, Bruins coach ClaudeJulien was asked about the health of Milan Lucic.

Seemed like a question that a coach wouldnt even answer,following an overtime thriller that clinched a first-round playoff seriesagainst the rival Canadiens. And while Julien would never answer that questionwith any type of truth (most injuries arent leaked until season is officiallyover), even he understood why it was being asked.

Lucic had only two assists in that first-round series. Attimes, it looked as if something was wrong with the Bruins forward. It wouldbe no surprise to anyone if Lucic was playing through some type of injury orillness.

Those struggles continued in the second round against thePhiladelphia Flyers. Through the first three games, he only had one assist inGame 3. Heading into Friday nights Game 4, Lucic was one of only five Bruinsskaters without a goal. The others were Adam McQuaid, Tomas Kaberle, ShaneHnidy, and Shawn Thornton.

To put that into perspective, thats three defensemen and anenforcer. Not to take anything away from what those four other players do, butLucic established himself as being on a different level, when it comes to goalscoring.

Zero goals and just three assists through the first 10playoff games wasnt what anyone in Boston had in mind for the power forwardwho scored 30 goals in the regular season.

In fact, his scoreless drought dated back further than justthe first 10 playoff games. If you want to include the last 10 games of theregular season, Lucic hadnt scored a goal in 20 games.

He snapped that skid on Friday night, leading the way inBostons 5-1 win over the Flyers, helping the Bruins clinch their second-roundplayoff series with a four-game sweep, and advancing to their first EasternConference Final since 1992.

Lucic scored Bostons first and third goals in the win, andproclaimed afterwards, that the monkey is off his back.

It feels good, said Lucic. Its been kind of frustrating thelast 20 games, not being able to put the puck in the back of the net. Tonight,I was just able to get open, and when I got those opportunities, both weregreat plays by Nathan Horton to set me up, and when I got thoseopportunities, it was nice to step up and score big goals.

The first one came with eight minutes left in the firstperiod, and it gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead. It was also Bostons secondpower-play goal of the playoffs.

Lucic was parked out front of the net, and received a quicktouch pass from Nathan Horton, where Lucic easily put the puck into an openright side of the net.

His second of the game was just as big, as it give theBruins a 3-1 lead with 4:57 left in the third period. This one came on abreakaway, after Horton found him streaking up the ice with a perfect leadpass.

From 20-game slump, to multi-goal hero, Lucic was the playerof the game on Friday night.

I tried my hardest not to get frustrated, said Lucic.There was a time there when I was really frustrated, but right now, obviously,it feels good to step up and help the team win a big game. Moving forward, youwant to keep pushing for more.

It almost seemed like it wasnt fun for me these lastcouple of games, added Lucic. Thats when it comes to my teammates having myback, and telling me to just stick with it, and start having fun again, andjust relax, and get into those areas where I did score a lot of goals thisyear.

Rightfully so, Lucic was sporting the Bruins player of thegame jacket after his two-goal performance. The last time received that honorwas the last time he scored, back on March 22.

Last time I wore this jacket was a big win for us againstthe Devils when I got my 30th goal, said Lucic. This win, regardless of thetwo goals, this win is a huge win for our hockey club and our organization.

Hes a good player for us, said veteran Mark Recchi afterthe win. Hes a big, physical presence. The puck wasnt going in the net forhim. He started to show signs of getting his legs under him again, and when youhavent scored for a while you tend to get tight. Hes a young kid andhopefully now hes found a really good time to start getting hot.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes


Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.