With a new role, Lucic battling hard

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With a new role, Lucic battling hard

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA Milan Lucic sounds almost wistful when talking about the sudden emergence of Tyler Seguin in the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bs power forward remembers being a 19-year-old in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, and the kind of ignorance is bliss attitude of the young that came along with feeling no expectations or pressure weighing him down.

Lucic had a pair of goals in that seven game series, but was a younger player adding his thumping physical style while other players shouldered the offensive load as underdogs against the Habs. Thats a lot different than being your teams leading goal scorer during the regular season, and feeling all kinds of pressure while putting up six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 14 games along with a plus-8 rating.

For me this years playoff feels a lot different than the last couple of years playoffs," Lucic said. "I remember when I was his age playing in the playoffs and there was no pressure. Youd just go out there and play. Its different going into a season rather than going into the playoffs, especially for him where no expectations with all of this other stuff going. He was supposed to score and all of this crazy stuff. Here nobody really talked about him and he was able to walk right in and play.

Thats what hes done; hes going out there and playing and thats why he was able to do what he could do."

Thats the situation Lucic is in now where hes been fielding questions like, Whats wrong? and Are you hurt? from media around the playoffs since the first couple of postseason games when Lucic was losing physical battles to P.K. Subban. The big winger was much better against the Flyers where he could stretch out his 6-foot-2, 235-pound body and punish Philadelphia players without worrying about too much faking, flopping or diving.

Still, Lucic leads the Eastern Conference and trails only Vancouvers Maxim Lapierre with 43 penalty minutes this season aided by a pair of game misconducts in 14 games with the Bruins. Some of that has been bad luck or bad decisions, but there have also been some encouraging performances within the postseason body of work.

Lucic was very good in Game 3 while setting up David Krejcis first period goal, and then going the extra mile to save a puck in the offensive zone that led to Andrew Ferences insurance goal. Lucic said it was a pure hustle play that he had a good feeling would lead to something positive, and it was indicative of the effort put in up and down the Bruins lineup.

He was good," Claude Julien said. "His fore-check, he chipped pucks in, he went after the puck aggressively and when you see a guy like Milan Lucic coming at you it makes you a little nervous. It can put you on your heels. So he created a lot of turnovers last night. But the other part you mentioned is it was important for him to be strong on the puck and not to lose it.

I thought he did that in Game 2 a lot and he got stripped from the puck. Earlier in the game he lost a couple of battles along the boards and I just kind of reminded him that the biggest asset of his game is about winning battles. He did a great job of refocusing and bringing that part of his game back to that game that night. So I thought he was a really good player battling a minor injury, but hes battling through it.

It may not be the same as it ever was for Lucic while he battles through the ins and outs of a scoring slump during the playoffs, but hes fighting through it and contributing in all manner of ways for the Bruins.

Big Bad Lucic still has a lot more to give before its all said and done, and hes proven this spring that he wont ever stop battling no matter the circumstances.

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

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.