Lucic finds his offense by keeping game simple

Lucic finds his offense by keeping game simple
March 26, 2013, 1:45 am
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BOSTON -- When it comes to Milan Lucic it’s all about simplicity.

When the Bruins power forward moves his feet, plays with energy and certainty and goes in decisive straight lines on the ice, Lucic is a difference-maker and a special blend of power and production. That player hadn’t been around much over the last month as Lucic went 15 straight games without a goal, and basically hit rock bottom last weekend when he finished with no shots on net, one hit and very little influence on the outcome of a disappointing loss to the Leafs.

So Claude Julien dropped the slumping Lucic down to the third line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron for Monday’s rematch with the Leafs, and saw it pay dividends as the left wing potted the team’s first goal in a 3-2 shootout win at TD Garden Monday night.

It all started with Lucic focusing on his skating game, and the offensive bounties followed.

“With Milan it’s all about his feet. [He has success] when his feet are moving and when he uses his speed… not just on the goal, but a couple other times there, he really took the puck to the outside and tried to cut back in. Either he’s going to get those chances or create some power plays for us by getting them to drag him down. He’s big, he’s strong, and when he uses his speed he’s certainly that much more of a player.”

The Lucic goal was his first score in 16 games, and gave a visible lift to everybody else in a Bruins uniform on Monday night. There was very little crispness or energy in Boston’s game during the first period, but the entire bench brightened up with a surge of energy after Lucic brought some welcomed offense.

“Once he gets going he gets the pucks with his speed there’s not very many guys who can probably stop him. That’s nice that he got part of his game going, and he got rewarded for that, scoring a really nice goal,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “It’s not always as easy to be done and said and I’m sure he knows that. Once he saw he scored a goal, all of the sudden he was doing it every other shift and it was really working.

“Sometimes little things like [a goal] will spark the whole body and all of the sudden he just gets going…that’s great.”

Lucic had two of Boston’s best scoring chances in the game, and the first happened all the way back in the first period as an early indication has game was turning for the better. The Bruins power forward entering the offensive zone churning his legs and moved into a shooting position at the top of the slot with bodies in front of the net. Lucic let loose a wrist shot that James Reimer managed to get a piece of with his shoulder, but it was clear he was getting his skating game going.

For a player that had been looking for an oasis in the middle of a lamp-lighting desert, it was exactly what the puck doctor ordered. It’s still only his fifth goal of the season after averaging 29 each of the last two years, but nobody said pulling out of one of the worst slumps of his career would be easy.

“It was starting to get really frustrating going as long as I did without a goal. You try so many different things, you keep pushing and pushing and when things start not working, you start second guessing yourself,” admitted Lucic. “It was great play by Jordy [Jordan Caron] to beat the pinch there and Pevs [Rich Peverley] gave me the pass and I just wanted to take it to the net and was able to finish it off.”

The successful goal scoring play started with Peverley hitting Lucic in stride with the puck in the neutral zone. The B’s left winger pushed it into the offensive zone with speed and attacked the net while waiting for Reimer to make a move opening up his five hole for a well-placed shot.

“It was almost like I wasn’t even thinking [on the goal]. It was one of those things that when you’re scoring you’re not even really thinking about it,” said Lucic. “My only thought in my head was take the puck to the net and I was able to open [Reimer] up. My game is pretty simple so it doesn’t really matter who I play with. I’m expected to play a certain way and I play the same way no matter who I play with.”

Julien placed Lucic back together with David Krejci and a similarly slumping Nathan Horton in the third period, and the line seemed to be playing with much more attitude and confidence in a tight hockey game against Toronto. So much of that starts with Lucic, who is the catalyst for so much of the physical spark and offensive production that the Bruins rely upon for success.

He was able to deliver in Monday night’s win for the Bruins, and it will be important for Lucic to consistently bring that for the next month of the regular season and then on into a postseason that’s expected to be a nice, long ride. It should be doable for a player that’s pared everything down to its simplest terms in his game.