Milan Lucic tracks down Mathieu Joseph after he hit Kris Russell from behind and almost starts a line brawl pic.twitter.com/9x5CDQHsfG— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 7, 2018
Call me Captain Caveman if you must, but I applaud Milan Lucic for his actions chasing after Mathieu Joseph and clobbering him when he caught up to him in Tuesday night’s Oilers/Lightning tilt. And I further give kudos to the NHL Department of Player Safety for giving Lucic a $10,000 fine rather than a suspension after a phone hearing with him on Wednesday.
Some may say what Lucic did are actions from bygone era, and has more place in the 1970s than it does in the modern day NHL. Some even called it a blindside hit (it wasn’t) and chastised Lucic for jumping on top of a laid out Joseph like an MMA fighter (hint: if Lucic really wanted to hurt the player, it would have been a much more vicious incident), but what it was at the end of the day was an enforcer-type player protecting one of his teammates.
Joseph had been running around for much of the game going after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid earlier before smashing Kris Russell from behind in the third period. At that point, Lucic’s protective instincts went into gear and he began chasing after Joseph after he’d been challenged by Jujhar Khaira and Zach Kassian immediately right after the boarding hit.
Joseph knew he had something coming against a physical Oilers bunch, so to say he was completely unsuspecting or taken by surprise in this situation is malarkey. Lucic sent a message without going berserk or getting reckless about it, and it’s a good bet Joseph is going to think twice about going over the edge against Edmonton again.
Honestly, Lucic’s actions are a stark reminder that the Bruins could use a player like that to police things on the ice. They had that guy in Lucic, obviously, but were right in dealing him before he signed a long-term contract that's now overpaying him to the tune of $6 million per season.
But right now Brad Marchand leads the B’s with two fighting majors on the season, and credit to him for stepping up and defending teammates against bigger, stronger opponents when it’s been called for. This is where Adam McQuaid has been missed since being traded to the Rangers at the start of training camp, and nobody has really filled the void for that protector/policeman role on the Black and Gold.
Something was made pretty obvious a couple of weeks ago when David Backes, Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen were all knocked out of commission with upper body injuries suspected to be concussions. Opposing teams aren’t afraid to take runs at Bruins players anymore for fear of answering the bell against players like Lucic, or McQuaid, or Shawn Thornton. Instead, the Bruins hope to be team-tough with players like Marchand, Noel Acciari and others getting pushed into the hockey fight game when other teams are stepping over the line.
Bruce Cassidy was asked a couple of weeks ago if other teams were getting a little more brazen in the way they go after Bruins players, and whether that was something that needed addressing.
“It’s interesting because I’ve always thought we’ve done a good job around here of sticking up for one another,” said Cassidy. “We did in Ottawa with [Matt] Grzelcyk. The Vaakanainen one kind of happened in a hurry and I don’t anybody in the pile was aware of what was going on. But it’s a good question.
“If it’s an issue where teams around the league are trying to take advantage of us, then we’d have to have a discussion. I don’t think it is to be honest with you. You don’t want that to creep in, obviously, but you also have to play the game. That’s always a tough one.”
The bottom line is that the B’s transformation from a big, heavy and tough team toward a smaller, skilled and offensively explosive bunch has been a welcomed evolution. But with it has also come Boston’s best players becoming much more popular targets for opponents without much fear of a Lucic-type chasing them around the ice hell-bent on justice. It may not be something that happens as often as it once did, but there are times in B’s games when they could very much use a player with a Lucic-type intimidation factor.
Right now, they just don’t have a player like that, ready, willing and able to take on that job. It’s something the B’s could sorely use.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.