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.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.