Lucic, Neely return home to Vancouver

191545.jpg

Lucic, Neely return home to Vancouver

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Its fitting that Cam Neely's and Milan Lucic's dream season will end, for better or worse, in Vancouver.

It's their hometown, the place where it all began for two of the Bruins' most rugged players of the last three decades. Its also a destination they seemingly have been headed for all year.

Neely was named Bruins president before the season began. The promotion was a coronation that was years in the making and placed the beloved Hall of Fame forward in a position to truly make things happen within the Bs organization. Its no coincidence theres been a different kind of urgency and accountability since Neely grabbed the reigns last summer.

Meanwhile, Lucic rebounded from an injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign, in which he missed both a potential Canadian Olympic Team berth and the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, with his best season in the NHL, continuing to hone his game of brutality and offensive brawn. He's begun to make good on the Neely comparisons that have been made since he was drafted by the Bruins in 2006.

The setting where Lucic was drafted? The Rogers Arena home of the Vancouver Canucks, of course.

Anybody sensing a pattern here?

Both Neely and Lucic cast an overpowering presence during the four-day stop the Bruins had in Vancouver in February amidst a six-game road trip.

Lucic had his number retired by the hometown Vancouver Giants junior hockey team, where he earned MVP honors during their Memorial Cup run, and then scored the game-winning goal in the third period of a 3-1 victory over the Canucks. For many players Lucic included the solid road win in Vancouver was the first time they began firmly believing they were Stanley Cup material.

Lucic has a goal and two assists along with 12 shots on net in three career games against Vancouver, and has enjoyed success imposing his physical style on the faster, skilled Canucks. The sight of Lucic collecting rebounds and wreaking havoc in front of the Vancouver net is one that should become a familiar one in the seven-game series.

Ive always been able to thrive off playing excited and with a lot of emotion, said Lucic. I know Ive heard some guys say that when they play at home in front of a lot of their friends and family that they seem to tense up a bit. I just get excited about it and I think its the reason Im able to perform against Vancouver.

The extended stay and game-winning heroics in Vancouver was the highlight of Lucics breakout NHL campaign. He led the Bruins with 30 goals scored, and finally married his brute force and deft skills.

To be vying for a Stanley Cup against the team he rooted for as a youngster raises it to another level entirely.

Its definitely special to just be in a Stanley Cup Final is special. But to be in my hometown just makes it that much more extra special, said Lucic. I played junior hockey and won a Memorial Cup here. The Memorial Cup probably stands out the most, winning it at home in the Pacific Coliseum right next to where I started skating as a little kid. I was drafted by the Bruins here. Im definitely grateful I was selected by them. We had arguably our best win of the regular season against the Canucks. It seems like in some ways this was almost destined to happen.

I know growing up here that the Canucks have been waiting a long time to get back into the Stanley Cup Final. I know Boston fans have been waiting for the Bruins to get back in the Final. Both cities are jacked up and excited.

It's just as sweet for Neely, who actually played for the Canucks prior to getting dealt to Boston, along with a No. 1 draft choice, in 1986 for Barry Pederson.

Coming back to Vancouver, obviously got some family and friends excited about it as well, said Neely. Being a former player, growing up here . . . it's an interesting matchup. It's exciting for sure.

For Milan, its probably a little bit different being a player in that regard. But he's got tons of family and friends that are excited about this matchup. I think a lot of people were certainly hoping for Bruins versus Canucks at the start of the year. To have two teams like this meet in the finals, from Milan's perspective, I don't think he could ask for anything better.

Neely is thoroughly aware that the 25th anniversary of his trade to Boston will take place birthday on the same day, June 3, as Game 3 of the Finals. That day also happens to be Neely's 46th birthday.

Lucic thinks the best birthday gift he can give to the team president is the Stanley Cup the Bruins were never able to capture during Neely's time in uniform.

Neely says to go out there, lay everything on the line and play like theres no tomorrow, said Lucic. In the end, you want to have no regrets. I think weve heard him say it. If theres one thing he could have done while he played, it would have been to win a Stanley Cup. Here we are with the opportunity to do that, and to win it with him would be very special.

The stage has been set for both Neely and Lucic to attain their NHL dream against the perfect opponent. Now, years after Lucic began fantasizing about the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Vancouver, it's up to him and his teammates to deliver.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

McQuaid on going in the NHL expansion draft: ‘I hope that’s not the case for me’

BOSTON – With the NHL expansion draft looming a couple of months in the future, it became much more of a reality for the Bruins this week now that the 2016-17 season is in the books.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said on Thursday that he expects the Bruins to go the 7 (forwards) 3 (defensemen) 1 (goaltender) route protecting their roster from the June 21 expansion draft. That will still leave some useful roster players unprotected.

MORE BRUINS

Atop that available expansion list for the Bruins will be potential names Malcolm Subban, Riley Nash, Jimmy Hayes and Adam McQuaid, who could be headed to Vegas. Asked about the topic at this week’s breakup day for the players, McQuaid expressed his hopes that he isn’t the one selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. The 30-year-old McQuaid stayed healthy enough to play in 77 games this season, and posted two goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 while serving in a top-four role pretty much all season as Torey Krug’s defensive partner.

McQuaid also brought the toughness and quiet leadership element with his willingness to always stand up for his teammates and go toe-to-toe with the toughest guys in the league when it was called for. His midseason heavyweight bout with Matt Martin was one of the most memorable moments of the season. It’s an element the Bruins would miss if he was taken in the expansion draft.  

“Well, I hope not. I never thought of it that way, to be honest with you. Obviously, the reality of the situation is they’re picking somebody from every team,” said McQuaid. “So, I hope that’s not the case for me. I’ve won here and I’ve always said how much I love it back here. I can’t imagine playing for another team. It’s totally out of my control, but hopefully that’s not the case.”

McQuaid is signed for $2.75 million for the next seasons and it was clear he was missed on the penalty kill once he went down injured in the first-round series against the Ottawa Senators. As for the entire expansion process, Sweeney said they are currently whittling down the protected list while required to protect Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to start by virtue of the no-movement language in their contracts.

Other young players, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano among others, don’t need to be protected either after completing this season with two years or less of pro hockey experience. One of the most difficult decisions will come down to protecting either 25-year-old Colin Miller or 28-year-old Kevan Miller as the third defensemen. 

Whichever one of those D-men is left unprotected would join McQuaid as the most likely player to be selected by Vegas GM George McPhee after he spent a decent amount of time scouting the Black and Gold this season to get an idea of which player he wanted.

Here’s our best guess at which players will end up being protected by the Bruins:

Forwards (7): Bergeron, Krejci, Backes, Pastrnak, Marchand, Beleskey and Spooner

Defensemen (3): Chara, Krug and Colin Miller

Goaltender (1): Rask 


 

Friday, April 28: Why combine NHL Awards with expansion draft?

Friday, April 28: Why combine NHL Awards with expansion draft?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Bruce Cassidy does a regular call-in to the Toucher and Rich Show next season. It’s a treat for Bruins fans. Cassidy is a straight shooter and has a great personality as well.

*Puck Daddy explains why the NHL is cramming the expansion draft for Vegas in with the NHL Awards show. I feel like this kind of makes sense because they’re both Vegas-centric.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ian Mendes says there’s no playoff fever in Ottawa and instead only a “Sens malaise.” It’s crazy to me that there were pockets of empty seats in Ottawa for Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs against the Rangers.

*Speaking of Game 1 between the Sens and the Rangers, here are the details with Erik Karlsson again stepping up and playing the hero while carrying Ottawa.

*The Anaheim Ducks are having a heck of a time containing Leon Draisaitl in their second round battle with the Edmonton Oilers.

*Here’s some of this morning’s chat between Bruce Cassidy and Toucher and Rich where he talked about his relationship with Claude, his hate for the Canadiens and the future outlook for the Bruins organization. Good stuff.

*Glen Gulutzan reflects on his first season behind the bench for the Calgary Flames after their first round ouster.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Mike Halford has details of the Rangers not allowing Chris Drury to interview for the GM job with the Buffalo Sabres.

*For something completely different: What is the deal with this Buckingham McVie music that’s coming out? Whatever happened to Buckingham Nicks?