Lucic enjoys exciting Vancouver homecoming

Lucic enjoys exciting Vancouver homecoming

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Traveling with the Bruins affords you some pretty unique looks into the lives of Bostons most celebrated hockey players, and some of the extraordinary experiences theyre lucky to have during the season.

The victory lap taken by David Krejci while Liberec crowd chanted his name in a Czech Republic rink was as emotional as youll ever see the young center get.

Meeting Zdeno Charas father and family in the historic Old TownSquare in Prague also immediately comes to mind.

Some moments are more noteworthy than others during the NHL schedule as the group of traveling hockey players dart across North America and Europe in some instances to fill out the 82-game regular season schedule and playoffs.

One of those special stitches in time arrived this week for Milan Lucic, who was home in Vancouver to play the Canucks for only the second time in his NHL career.

Very different than the last one-day trip through Vancouver two years ago by Lucic and the Bruins, this time around the Bs power forward enjoyed four days in the picturesque capital of British Columbia and his hometown -- surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Lucic was notified some time ago he would be honored by his former junior hockey team the Vancouver Giants with an induction into their ring of honour where he joined fellow Giants players Gilbert Brule, Andrej Meszaros, Mark Fistric and Brett Festerling."This is the place where Looch turned a boy into a man," said Mark Recchi. "I think it's a pretty special place for him."

The Giants are where then Bruins Scouting Director Scott Bradley discovered the big, strong raw-boned hockey player skating on the WHL teams fourth line.

Lucic wouldnt blow anybody away in a single viewing, but Bostons currentDirector of Player Personnel got to watch Lucic on a regular basis, and openly wondered what the youngster could do if he struck the balance between throwing punches and snapping one-timers.

Thats happened as a pro, and Bradley was on hand in Vancouver along with other members of the Bruins front office to watch Lucic bask in a little hometown glory this week.

Hes been bubbly for the last couple of days, and it couldnt happen to a nicer kid, said Bradley of Lucic. We had targeted him all along to draft, but hes exceeded every expectation that we had. I really like the fact that he just keeps improving all the time. In his draft year, every night when I came to see him play, you saw improvement.

People say he only had nine goals with the Giants, but he was fighting and playing physical and he scored nine goals while skating on the fourth line. If you got your crystal ball out and looked at it, you could see some of the future success. That force of will, that work ethic, that determination of his, thats exactly what were always looking for as scouts. Its a cool story. Lucic is a scouts dream because these guys dont come along all that often.

Lucics entire family was on hand to watch him drop the ceremonial first puck in a Friday night game between the Vancouver Giants and Chilliwack Bruins, and observe the unveiling of his banner after a highlight reel video package of greatest moments in his junior career including the MVP Shift where he decimated three different opponents with bone-rattling hits before throwing down in a fight that set the tone for Vancouvers Memorial Cup-winning contest.

There were great touches on the night including a little 6-year-old kid skating with both teams during warm-ups while donning Lucics No. 27 Giants jersey, and the 22-year-old Lucic really seemed to understand how fortunate that kind of a moment was for him.

Growing up as a kid this is the kind of stuff that you dream of. Youre always shooting for the stars when youre a kid, right? Im living my dream now because playing in the NHL is something I always dreamed of, said Lucic. Not only that, Im coming back home where everybody is really excited to see me.

My old junior team has sold 12,000 tickets for the game during Milan Lucic Night. It definitely makes you feel good about yourself and it really just reminds you of where you came from. It makes me really proud to call myself a Vancouverite.

Its not often somebody gets feted in their hometown at such a young age with friends and family surrounding them, but then again Lucic isnt the kind of player that comes around all that often.

Perhaps the one individual most apt to know exactly whats going through Lucics mind on a special Vancouver evening is Bs President Cam Neely, who grew up in the same area, played the same manner of game and understands exactly what it feels like to be the conquering son coming home to Vancouver.

Its always special because you dont get to come home very often and play in front of family and friends, said Neely. You get a little bit more amped, and to be honored by his junior team is something I know is really special to him and his family. There are a lot of people in the building cheering him on Friday night with the Giants, but also coming up to the Canucks game on Saturday.

Of course Lucic should be a big factor against the Western Conference-leading Canucks with his team-leading 26 goals that have him on pace for close to a 60-point season and have seen him perhaps finally figuring out the balance between physically setting a tone and becoming a scoring threat each time hes on the ice. There are points when Lucics physical game has tapered off and hes dealt with a nagging shoulder problem at points during the season, but the power forward shifted into beast mode in Bostons win Tuesday night in Calgary and that makes a huge difference for Boston when Lucic can ramp it up to that level.

Just to see his skating improve, his shot improve. Hes a big physical presence and thats given him a lot of room, time and space for himself along with the rest of his linemates, said Neely. He has that kind of an impact when hes playing physical that it also has on our team. I think hes figuring it out.

It takes a couple of years to figure out how you have to play and what you have to do when youre that type of player. Its showing this year on the ice with how hes doing, and whats he doing. Its not just on the scoresheet. When hes playing physical for our team, it makes a big difference.

Getting honored in his hometown for past glory as a junior hockey player shows exactly how far Lucic has come, and just how much hes figured out in his short, successful time with the Bruins.

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

Friday, April 29: Spacey backs Barkov for NHL 2017 cover

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Friday, April 29: Spacey backs Barkov for NHL 2017 cover

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while pumped that Jon Bernthal is getting his own Netflix show as The Punisher. He was the best thing about the second season of Daredevil.

*Kevin Spacey is officially endorsing Aleksander Barkov for the cover EA Sports NHL 2017, and that continues the unlikely friendship between Spacey and the Florida Panthers.

*Patrick Kane knows that all eyes will be on him – for unfortunately good reasons -- moving forward with the Blackhawks after everything that went down with him on and off the ice over the last year.

*In true hot take fashion, Ryan Lambert thinks Bruce Boudreau should remain coach of the Ducks because he’s been unlucky in those pesky Game 7 playoff scenarios. Yup, it’s all about luck in sports. That must be why the Ducks fired him on Friday afternoon. So it’s another spot on piece of analysis from somebody that knows as much inside NHL hockey info as your local high school gym teacher.

*Speaking of hot takes, FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rob Rossi says that Tom Wilson isn’t a hockey player after his knee-on-knee hit of Connor Sheary in Game 1 of their playoff series. Wilson definitely isn’t as good a hockey player as Milan Lucic is in terms of offensive production, but he definitely can play the game of hockey a bit in addition to the thuggishness on the ice.

*Gary Lawless says the NHL and NHLPA have come to an agreement on players with no-movement clauses, who will need to be protected by their respective teams in any upcoming NHL expansion draft.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford says that Russian wild card Alex Radulov is expecting to play in the NHL next season. That could be bad news to coaches everywhere looking to limit their quota of enigmatic Russian players on their roster.

*ICYMI, here’s my radio hit with Bob Stauffer from Oilers Now talking about the state of the Bruins as they head into the offseason.

*For something completely different: the passing of former Patriots player Ron Brace at 29 is so sad given what an excellent person he was in addition to being a solid local football product.

 

           

NHL Notes: McQuaid hopes Stamkos doesn’t rush back too soon

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NHL Notes: McQuaid hopes Stamkos doesn’t rush back too soon

The Tampa Bay Lightning has been decidedly vague about any potential return to the ice for Steven Stamkos in the Stanley Cup playoffs and that’s with excellent reason.

Clearly, the Bolts could use Stamkos back as soon as possible while embroiled in a tough second-round matchup against the New York Islanders, but that doesn’t appear as if it’s going to happen with Tampa just four tantalizing wins away from a return to the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning superstar has been out since April 4 following his surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a blood clot condition that involves an area at the collarbone that requires a fairly extensive surgery to repair.

The surgery involves cutting the muscles around the clot, and permanently removing a rib. 

The original prognosis for Stamkos was a recovery time of 1-3 months. In an optimistic development, the 26-year-old has skated with his teammates for the past few days in a non-contact jersey. Stamos made it clear that he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to even get a chance to return and those that have gone through the same injury and surgery hope he does take his time.

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had the same Thoracic Outlet Syndrome blood clot issue and surgery in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, but his took place in  the first half of the schedule wiped out by the labor dispute. He was told at the time the injury was something extremely rare for a hockey player, but now he’s hearing of other cases around the league, including Stamkos and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“Everybody told me how rare it was for me to have this as a hockey player, and now there have been at least three other cases since,” McQuaid told CSNNE.com when asked about Stamkos at Bruins breakup day a couple of weeks ago. “It’s interesting. I don’t know if there’s a reason behind it. It can be a genetic thing where the space in there is a little smaller than somebody else, so somebody that doesn’t play sports or really lift weights won’t ever have an issue with it.

“Or it can be a previous injury that’s changed the landscape of your anatomy. I’m not 100 percent sure what the case was for me, but those are the causes, I guess. It sounds like [Stamkos] had the exact same surgery I did, so we’ll see. I followed the doctor’s orders and I still feel like I pushed things a little bit, and it was two months on blood thinners. I couldn’t lift anything for a month, so it takes a while to get all of that back.”

Regardless of how it happened, it took McQuaid multiple months to get off the blood thinners, get back to working and get on the ice for the first time, so he knows that any Stamkos return is later rather than sooner. It was also very clear to anybody who watched the rugged, rangy B’s blueliner in the 2013 abbreviated schedule that the extended period of time away from working out had a negative impact: McQuaid was seriously compromised in size and strength until getting a full summer to work back into peak condition.

So, jumping onto a moving Stanley Cup playoff train is going to be awfully difficult, if not totally impossible, for even somebody as talented and gifted as Stamkos. It makes the one month end of the 1-3 month timetable released by the Lightning at time of Stamkos’ injury announcement as much wishful thinking than anything expected to be a realistic return for Tampa Bay’s captain.

McQuaid said he hopes Stamkos weighs his future when making the final decision on a possible return. Stamos’ status as an unrestricted free agent this summer really puts a different wrinkle into the unique scenario.

“I guess I was somewhat fortunate because of the lockout that I didn’t miss any time,” said McQuaid, who had the symptoms crop up while driving from Boston to Prince Edward Island in late September 2012. “I know looking back now that I really needed to take the time to get my strength back. I know I wasn’t where I had been before the surgery when I came back [to play].

“You’re a hockey player so you’re going to come back as soon as you can if you’re deep into the playoffs. You want to come back and do everything you can to help your team. But it can be a serious thing, you know? The blood clots. [Stamkos] is a great player with so many great years ahead of him. You’ve got to take the time to let your body heal and do things the right way so you won’t have issues down the road with it.”

Nobody questions Stamkos’ toughness after he returned to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins in 2013 after a puck practically tore his nose off, and he’ll return if things fall into place. But here’s hoping valor doesn’t get in the way of common sense for a tough hockey player in Stamkos who should heed the words of McQuaid, who has been in the exact same difficult position.

DEFENSEMEN FOR SALE

It’s common knowledge to those that have covered the Bruins the past 10 years that Don Sweeney and the B’s previously took a run at puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk when he was traded from the Colorado Avalanche. The puck-moving defenseman was instead shipped to the St. Louis Blues, where he developed into an All-Star defenseman who’s still playing in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Dallas Stars.

But the former BU Terrier might not be sticking around in St. Louis for much longer.

According to an industry source, the Bruins “are well-positioned to take a run at Shattenkirk” because of the D-man’s desire to play in the Eastern Conference if/when he is dealt by the Blues this summer. Shattenkirk doesn’t have a no-trade clause per se, but it might sweeten the trade return for St. Louis if they move him to a new club confident he’ll sign an extension with them.

It also feels very much like something classy Blues GM Doug Armstrong would do in moving a good St. Louis soldier like Shattenkirk to a preferred NHL destination.  

With the Blues up against the salary cap with both David Backes and Jaden Schwartz up for new deals on July 1, Armstrong will be looking to deal a defenseman given the emergence of 22-year-old blueliner Colton Parayko. With Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson all holding no-trade clauses, it doesn’t leave a lot of viable options for tradable assets from the quality D-men surplus aside from the 27-year-old Shattenkirk.

The one sticking point for the Bruins will be price.

St. Louis and each of the other 28 NHL teams know that the Bruins are desperate for help on their back end, and that will be reflected in the premium price tag. Think something along the lines of the return to the Coyotes for a similar player in Keith Yandle: defenseman John Moore, top prospect Anthony Duclair, a lottery-protected first-round draft pick in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2015.

What’s the Bruins equivalent? Perhaps Zach Trotman, Ryan Spooner and a conditional first/second round pick based on whether Shattenkirk ends up signing a contract extension to stick around Boston beyond next season.

It makes perfect sense that the former BU defenseman could be one of the big blueline names moved this summer and the Bruins would register as a perfect fit given their need for a top-pairing puck-mover able to play 20-plus minutes a night with skill, production, precision and plenty of big-game poise.

Shattenkirk has all of those things, and would perhaps begin to allow Cam Neely and Sweeney to start patching together a back end that destroyed the Bruins’ playoff hopes last season.

ONE-TIMERS

*I got a kick out of the Twitter puritans that swore Jeremy Roenick let a curse word slip on the air in his Thursday night analysis of Game 1 between the Capitals and Penguins on NBCSN. Both Roenick and Mike Milbury were critical of the sloppiness and lack of defensive structure between the two teams, and JR called it basically a “shinny game” out on the ice.

A lot of people thought he said something that sounds like “shinny” and might have also aptly described the action from a defensive purist standpoint. For those outside the hockey bubble, shinny is basically a pickup hockey game with no penalties, no real hitting and just rushes up and down the ice where offense is a premium.  

So, Roenick definitely said “shinny” in this instance, and I know this because I’ve also said “shinny” on the air only to have people think I was damning the torpedoes and swearing on the air. I actually had one viewer sending me angry emails that I was swearing while he and his son watched me on TV before I explained what I had actually said.

So once and for all its “shinny,” people. Get your minds out of the gutter!

*Speaking of the Capitals, they now become the heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup in this humble hockey writer’s opinion with Western Conference heavyweights Los Angeles, Chicago and Anaheim now all eliminated from the postseason. Barry Trotz’s boys would be the first Eastern Conference team since the Bruins in 2011 to win the Cup if they can fully accomplish the mission at hand.

*I think it’s time to officially retire the “Darth Quaider” nickname for Adam McQuaid with the Bruins signing Czech goaltender Daniel “Darth” Vladar to a three-year, entry-level contract. There can be only one Sith Lord per NHL team. Besides, McQuaid still has never even seen the Star Wars movies despite the moniker. So the Force is not strong in that one.

Remember, keep shooting pucks at the net and good things are bound to happen. 

 

Bruins' Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for fifth time

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Bruins' Patrice Bergeron named Selke finalist for fifth time

It was assumed that Patrice Bergeron will be finalist for the Selke Trophy again this season, and it became official on Thursday when it was announced that Bergeron, Ryan Kesler and Anze Kopitar were the three finalists for the award given to the best defensive forward.

It would be the third straight Selke Trophy and fourth overall for Bergeron if he can take the hardware home again during the NHL Awards in June, and the ever-humble No. 37 said he was just honored to once again be nominated.

“Being named a finalist for the Selke Trophy is a tremendous honor and one I am very grateful for,” said Bergeron in a press release. “While it is an individual award, my teammates and coaches deserve a lot of credit as well. Ryan and Anze are two elite players who both had great seasons and it is a privilege to be a finalist alongside them. Thanks to all of those who voted and I look forward to the NHL Awards Show on June 22.”

The Bruins center has won the Selke Trophy three times (2012, 2014 and 2015) and has now been a Selke finalist in each of the last five seasons. His three wins are tied for the second-most in NHL history, one behind Hall of Fame Canadiens forward Bob Gainey, who is the all-time leader with four Selke Trophies. Bergeron was the Bruins’ lone representative at the All-Star Game this winter for the second straight season, and was a no-brainer as a finalist given all of his defensive qualifications.

Bergeron finished the 2015-16 regular season leading the NHL in faceoffs taken (1,978) and for the second straight season led the league in faceoffs won (1,130) while finishing a solid seventh overall with a 57.1% faceoff win rate among players taking a minimum of 500 draws.