Lucic leads historically strong top line

Lucic leads historically strong top line
April 27, 2014, 10:00 am
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Milan Lucic scores in the third period of Game 5 against the Detroit Red Wings.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON - Take a look at this list.

It ranks the current NHL active playoff leaders for plus/minus.

You'll notice lots of familiar names - current and former Bruins - on that list.

As for the current ones, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron all crack the top 10.

Not. Too. Shabby.

In fact, Lucic is 2nd overall, and should easily pass Henrik Zetterberg for 1st during the Bruins-Canadiens series. (And he has a very realistic chance of cracking the Top 10 All-Time career leaderboard in plus/minus )

Think about that for a second: Milan Lucic will lead the NHL in playoff plus/minus for active players. And there's Krejci not too far behind him. That tells you just how vital those two players - and their line (don't forget Nathan Horton coming in at No. 6) - is to the Bruins' success in the postseason.

This year, it's Lucic, Krejci, and Jarome Iginla manning the top line, and after getting off to a rocky start to the series, they've turned things around going back to the third period of Game 4.

Lucic scored the equalizer in Game 4, and it was Iginla who blasted home the rebound off a Dougie Hamilton shot in overtime.

In Game 5, the top line picked up right where they left off. Lucic's goal in the third period made it 3-1, B's, and Lucic and Krejci both assisted on Iginla's empty-netter to cap off the win.

But it's not just the points that matter. All three players are controlling the puck for much longer times in the offensive zone. They look like they've now got control over what goes on out there, whereas before they seemed to be reacting.

So, what changed? Well it was nothing on the X's and O's side of things.

"I think we just started playing with more confidence," Lucic said. "I think we started, instead of chasing the puck we started playing with the puck and that started playing to our advantage as a line. So it was nice to be able to contribute with some big goals in the last two games. And like I said as the playoffs move on you want to get better as a player and as a team and as a line. And moving onto the next round we’re going to have to get better and better."

The key to getting better is very simple: keep it simple. Don't think so much. That's the message that Claude Julien tries to relay to his players out there.

"Sometimes you’re worried about making mistakes," Julien said. "You’re trying to do the right things in overtime, and when you over-think, you’re hesitating. You’re a little slow reacting. So I’ve said that often, between periods or even behind the bench, 'Let’s just play.' We all know how to play. We all know what our system is all about. So sometimes you just got to go out there and just skate and make things happen, and it helps. Certainly in Milan [Lucic]’s case, when he’s not over-thinking, his skating really picks up.

Iginla says that about halfway through Game 3, Lucic turned it up a notch.

"He was starting to control the play," Iginla said, "the puck was always with him, he’s taking two guys out in the corner. And he carried that over today too. He’s a very big guy and he’s strong and we all know that, but he has great hands and has good vision and he’s a quick player too."

As for the line's slow start to the series, Iginla points to perhaps focusing too much on what Red Wings' players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were up to, and not enough on what they needed to do. Once they kicked that habit, the production came shortly later.

"We're playing very good guys on the other side," Iginla said, "very good teams, and fortunately we were able to work through it and get some things rolling our way."