Bruins

Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

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Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Milan Lucic is happy. But in no way is he satisfied.

Not even after scoring his 20th goal on Wednesday night at the TD Garden, helping the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

His wrist shot from the top of the left circle beat Tomas Vokoun to the top-right corner and gave the B's a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period.

It's the first time in his four-year career that Lucic has reached the 20-goal mark. It comes in just 47 games. The closest he came to that mark was two seasons ago, when he finished his sophomore campaign with 17 goals in 72 regular-season games.

Reaching the 20-goal mark was always something Lucic expected to accomplish. Others thought he'd eventually reach it as well. But bot many thought it would come this quickly into a season.

Including Lucic himself.

"That was a big question coming in, for myself and a lot of people," said Lucic. "I thought I was able to get to that 20-goal mark. It came a lot quicker than I thought, but most importantly, it was a big goal to help the team win here, and it's great that we're first in the division, heading into the All-Star break."

The Bruins are first in the division and third in the conference, thanks in part to Lucic's offensive outburst in the first half of the year.

To put into perspective just how much Lucic's offense has meant to the team through 50 games this season, just look at Nathan Horton's recent 20-game slide, in which he has only one goal.

Horton was acquired to put the puck in the net, more than than anyone else on the team. He has only 12 goals at the All-Star break, a total that should be considered an "underachievement."

Add Horton's midseason slump to Marc Savard's continuous concussion issues, and this is a Bruins team that could only be first place in the division if someone stepped up and had a career year.

Lucic seems to be that guy.

"I think Lucic is at a stage in his career now, where he's still a young player, but he's got enough experience," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "This is going to be his fourth year, but he's one of those guys that is building consistency in his game. And what should I expect from him? I should expect him to continue playing a physical game. We should expect him to continue to produce, because he's capable of doing that. I think what we've seen in the first half, is what he's capable of doing for us, as we move on.

"He's also one of those players that I think always comes up big in the big games, such as playoffs, and all that stuff. He's one of those guys that really rises to the occasion, so you hope that continues as well."

There wasn't an All-Star break last year because of the Olympics. But in the final three months of the regular season (from February on), Lucic scored only six goals. After 20 goals through the month of January this season, seeing Lucic with only six goals in the final three months this year would be awfully disappointing to Bruins fans, and the organization.

But in fairness to his struggles last season, Lucic admitted after the fact that his high-ankle sprain, which he suffered in late November, affected his production for the rest of the season.

His ankle seems to be healthy this season, and as a result, he's already scored 11 more goals this season than he scored all of last year, in three less games.

Knowing that now he needs to be one of the go-to offensive threats on the Bruins this season, Lucic isn't satisfied with 20.

"It was real tough, going through what I went through, being out for so long, and especially, even when I came back, that high-ankle sprain was still bugging me," said Lucic about last season's struggles. "To work as hard as I did this summer, and to get rewarded for it thus far throughout the season is great. I can't stop here. I've got to keep pushing for more."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.