When Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 20th, many fans and pundits alike were labeling the sixth-year forward as a “bust” and someone who wasn’t living up to expectations. At that point, Lucic had a mere six goals. But it was his physical presence, and the other “little things” that he lacked during his regular season slump.
That healthy scratch seems like a distant memory now for the 25-year-old, who is heating up at just the right time.
The Vancouver-born winger had a solid end to the regular season, and as a result reunited with David Krejci and Nathan Horton in their first round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In that series, Lucic tallied nine of his ten postseason points, including an important goal in the Bruins’ Game 7 comeback.
Lucic only tallied one point in the Bruins’ five-game series victory over the Rangers. But he certainly made up for that by being engaged both physically and emotionally.
Just look at Saturday’s series clinching win where he tallied three shots and six hits in 20:03 of ice time. As a matter of fact, the stats don’t even do justice to indicate how good Lucic was on the ice. A perfect example of this was when Derek Dorsett had a clear path to the net, Lucic was there on the back check to knock the puck away and deliver a bone-jarring hit on the Rangers’ enforcer late in the first period.
If you need any more evidence of Lucic’s presence, then just ask Peter Chiarelli.
“He had some struggles there early, and really, up until the last little bit,” the Bruins GM said about Lucic’s season. “But now, he’s sometimes a man among boys the way he’s playing. He’s rolling.”
Like many of his teammates, Lucic was happy to put the Game 4 loss to the Rangers behind them and clinch the series in Game 5.
“I wasn’t too happy with how I played in that Game 4. It just felt like after the game, [we] had a lot more to give and I didn’t want to make the same mistake,” Lucic said after the 3-1 victory over the Blueshirts Saturday night. “We were a lot better, and for me I was able to get my feet going more.”
The Bruins will need similar production from Lucic when they face the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. The two teams will face off once the two semifinal series in the Western Conference concludes.
Either way, Lucic is looking forward to the challenge, and compared Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins to a certain NBA squad.
“Well no doubt, they’re a great hockey club,” Lucic said.
“In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they got. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and a former 50-goal scorer; a future hall of famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team. They definitely have a lot of weapons and in saying that, I think that’s what makes them successful is they play real well as a team and I think that’s what you’re probably going to see going into this next series, is two well-rounded teams going at it. And for us, we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.”