Lucic checks in during busy offseason

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Lucic checks in during busy offseason

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
LOWELL Milan Lucic is breathing a lot easier these days.

The 25-year-old power forward had sinus surgery last Wednesday with Dr. TessaHadlock at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary to straighten out an extremely deviated septum after four years of punching and being punched at the NHL level.

Lucic actually had seven separate breaks in his nose, dating back to a face-first plunge into the end boards in Philadelphia during his rookie season, and the 30-goal scorer called his nose area a big mess.

"I had surgery to straighten out the septum. It was broken in seven different places, said Lucic at LeLacheur Park in Lowell promoting his NMTW Rock and Jock Celebrity Softball Game at the home of the Lowell Spinners on Aug. 24 that benefits Celebrities for Charity. The first three days getting over it were pretty horrible, but Im breathing normally now. So Ill be good for camp.

Lucic said he was actually gasping for breathe at times during the playoffs because he couldnt breathe out of his left nostril due to the severe break within his nose. One thing Lucic didnt fix, however, was the prominent Serbian character in his beak thats always characterized No. 17.

He might be scoring more goals, but hes also still fighting and throwing body checks. Looch certainly hasnt gone Hollywood with his nose surgery.

"I didn't want to go with the pretty Brad Pitt look, he said, laughing. I wanted to keep the Lucic look going. Its the strong facial features.

So with that taken care of, Lucic is off to Edmonton for Johnny Boychuks wedding this weekend before getting ready for his time with the Stanley Cup in his home city of Vancouver. Lucic plans to take the Cup to his high school and the Agrodome rink where he learned to skate in East Vancouver, before hiking it up to the top of Mount Grouse that overlooks the city of Vancouver.

When we won the Memorial Cup we all took pictures with it on top of Mount Grouse, and thats actually the picture thats in the background on my laptop, said Lucic. I always told my family that someday Id replace that with a Stanley Cup photo on top of Mount Grouse, and now I can go out and do that. Itll be great.

Lucic has enjoyed almost a month of celebration since winning the Cup, and has had plenty of time to think about what transpired during the 24 playoff games that started against the Habs and ended with celebrations on the ice in Vancouver after Game 7. Lucic said he felt compelled to thank the fans that have approached him with gratitude after bringing the Cup back to Boston.

He also had some interesting thoughts about when he felt the turning point within the playoffs arrived. It wasnt against the Canucks or during a hard-fought seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning but instead came against the Habs when Boston was immediately pushed to the wall with two home losses to start the series.

The Bruins won Game 3 at the Bell Centre, escaped to Lake Placid for a couple of days away from the Habs hue and cry and then battled back after falling behind in Game 4. A fluke Andrew Ference bomb from the high point closed the Bruins within a 3-2 score in the game at the Bell Centre, and Ference famously flashed the unintentional bird to the Canadiens-friendly crowd as he skated in to celebrate with his approaching teammates.

It was that goal combined with the accompanying show of defiance which Ference later said was an equipment malfunction with his glove that gave Lucic the inspiration that the Bruins wouldnt lose the series, or any other series moving forward as they tore through the Eastern Conference.

I know he probably doesn't want to get this brought up, said Lucic with the slight hint of a chuckle. "But looking back to Game 4 against Montreal, we were down 3-1, and Andrew Ference scored that goal to make it 3-2. It was kind of a lucky bounce that went our way.

He just took a hard slap shot at it that went high glove and his finger got caught in his glove during his celebration.

Lucic laughingly agreed that it was an unintentional bird, but said the goal and gesture gave Boston something to rally around when they needed it most.

It was kind of that moment, when he scored that goal, where I felt that it showed our resiliency and our passion, Lucic said. It showed that we weren't going to give up. We knew we had something special here.

The Bs power forward was obviously inspired by his Bruins teammate, and there were plenty of iconic moments that followed for Lucic, Ference and the rest of his Bruins teammates en route to Cup glory.

From the press release regarding Lucic's charity event:

"The second annual Milan Lucic Rock and Jock Softball Game will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. at LeLacheur Park in Lowell with the athletes (The Jock Team) taking on popular radio and television personalities (The Rock Team). Proceeds from the event will benefit NMTWs Charitable Partners through the Celebrities for Charity Foundation. General admissions tickets are only 10 apiece and are available at www.rockandjocksoftball.org. Tickets are also available for purchase at any NMTW location in Lowell, Haverhill, Danvers and Framingham.

"Additionally one fan will win a charity raffle that will allow the winner to play in the Rock and Jock Softball Game, enjoy photo ops with Lucic and the players and get four VIP tickets to the game. The online raffle is being hosted by Celebrities for Charity Foundations patented technology at www.netraffle.org. Tickets cost just 2 each with a minimum purchase of five tickets and ticket prices are discounted for purchases of ten or more tickets. The raffle is open now and closes on Monday, August 22, 2011 at 10 a.m."

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

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.