Lucic: 'I can bring a lot more'


Lucic: 'I can bring a lot more'

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON Milan Lucic is a positive guy, but its even been a challenge for him to keep it light, airy and happy while hes struggled through a 14-game goal scoring drought thats carried on noticeably into the postseason.There have been whispers hes hurt or that he simply cant keep up with the pace of play dictated by the swift-skating Montreal Canadiens. Neither of those things appears to be the main culprit with Lucic, who has managed only five shots on net in four games against the Habs along with a minus-2.In three of the four games hes squeezed off only one shot or less in the series, and its probably got a lot more to do with simply losing one-on-one battles with Habs defenseman P.K. Subban. Lucic went through a similar rough patch to start the playoffs last season, and went scoreless in the first five games against Buffalo while also getting saddled with a minus-2 in that span. The 22-year-old power forward picked it up in Game 6 against Buffalo and was one of Bostons best players against the Flyers, and knows there is still time to get the Looch train moving.Its tough to think negatively and feel bad for myself when weve won each of the last two games, said Lucic. In the playoffs the only thing that matters is wins and losses. Im not happy with the way that Im playing. I know that I can bring a lot more. But for me I need to stop thinking negatively and think about what Ive been doing wrong, and instead focus on what I can do right. Try to bring that element to the game.Ive never a problem dealing with the pressure of the playoffs, and Ive always played well in the playoffs. Theres still time to figure it out, and bring what I can bring.Lucic charges down the left wing with regularity and Subban guards his right side defensively, and that means Lucic and Subban have been locked up for some epic puck battles throughout the first four games of their seven game series. The flamboyant Montreal defenseman carries a good offensive reputation and can do some spectacular things with the puck offensively, but hes also been a strong, underrated presence on his skates that hasnt been physically dominated by a bigger man in Lucic.Combine that with the Bs left winger playing a quiet physical game, and that leaves Lucic looking to answer a lot of questions in the final three games of the Montreal series a setting where the Bruins badly need him."This is not the time to get frustrated and be negative and to get yourself down, said Lucic. Today is fresh start and it's almost like 0-0 in the series again for me.I just want to do whatever I can to start playing like RyderBergeronMarchand, added Lucic, referencing the Bs forwards that have carried the offensive mail in the series. All my focus is to elevate my game and play the way I know that I can."It would greatly benefit the Bs to get their 30-goal scorer back after hes pulled a disappearing act over the last month. The Bruins are a gaudy 22-2 when Lucic pots a goal for the Black and Gold this season, but youll never guess who the team was when Boston found itself on the losing end of when Looch pots a goal: Montreal.That continues an odd season for Lucic against the Canadiens, and one hes hoping to end tonight while catching up to David Krejci and Nathan Horton in the goal-scoring department while the other lines have flourished in the series.Mark Recchi skipped the Bruins morning skate at TD Garden as a 43-year-old future Hall of Famer certainly always has the right to do, and theres little doubt hell be ready at the drop of the puck for Game 5.Claude Julien was careful to avoid any talk of being comfortable heading back to TD Garden with the series evened at 2-2 despite the best efforts of the Montreal media to have him step into a verbal trap.I dont know if its comfortable, said Julien. I think its more of a situation where weve got ourselves back into a series. Getting comfortable can be a dangerous word to use, especially in the playoffs. We are more confident. Winning the last two games youve built some confidence, and you hope you can carry that confidence into the game tonight.
Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

Bruins looking to avoid anxious moments on home ice

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The Bruins will have plenty of proud history on display for tonight’s home opener when Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt drop the ceremonial first puck at TD Garden prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils.

Orr is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first NHL game, and the amazing Schmidt is there for the 80th anniversary of his rookie NHL season, and it will be up to the current crop of B’s players afterward to play up to the standards of those two Hall of Fame legends. That was a difficult challenge for the Black and Gold last season as they struggled to a 17-18-6 record on home ice and experienced some of their worst regular-season efforts in front of the paying home customers.

When placed side-by-side with a road record (25-13-3), where only the Sharks and Capitals had more victories on the road last season, it was clear the B’s had some strange motivational issues at the Garden. Whether it was leadership, maturity or the coach to blame for their home malaise, the Bruins are looking to reverse that trend this season after an encouraging 2-1 start on the first three-game road trip of the season.

In fact, Brad Marchand didn’t even want to entertain thoughts about last year’s home ice funk.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we’re looking to have a big start at home and have a big year. We want to try and start that tonight,” said Brad Marchand. “We don’t have to get anxious and too excited. We play a good road game and if we play the same way at home as we do on the road then hopefully we’ll be okay.”

The home ice anxiousness was clear on many occasions for the Bruins whether it was getting blown out at the Winter Classic, getting smoked in Milan Lucic’s return to the Garden with the LA Kings or epically blowing the final game of the season vs. Ottawa with the playoffs on the line. It will be interesting to see what a big personality and hardened, vocal leader David Backes can bring to combat some of the home ice skittishness of last season. 

One other thing the Bruins will be looking to change: allowing the other team to score the first goal, as they’ve done in all three games to start this season. It could perhaps be excused with the B’s playing the polite visitor at the emotional home openers for  the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs last week, but now it’s their turn to jack up the emotional level and make TD Garden a much more difficult place to play than it was for the majority of last season. 


Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

Slow-starting Krejci looking for a spark in Bruins’ home opener

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Krejci hasn’t exactly been his usual self in the opening three games of the season for the Bruins and there are understandable, underlying reasons for that. 

One of them is that the 30-year-old playmaking center is coming off major offseason hip surgery and that’s made him look less than his silky-smooth best with the puck in the season’s first three games.

The good news is Krejci doesn’t believe any lingering hip problems have been a big factor at all, and instead his comfort level is increasing each time he takes the ice.

“I feel better and better every day. This is a tough injury, but I’m in good shape and in really good hands. The doctors have done a really good job with me every day, and it’s been really good,” said Krejci, who has one assist in the opening three games with just three shots on net while fighting to hang onto the puck. “It’s been fun to be out there with the guys, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

A more reasonable explanation for Krejci’s sluggish start was the last-second injury to Patrice Bergeron prior to the start of the season and the major alteration to his forward line as a result of No. 37’s absence. David Backes was pulled from the right wing spot on the Krejci line to fill in for Bergeron over the season’s first three games and he came away with two goals and three points in three games centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But the B’s second line was almost non-existent with smaller, skilled wingers on either side of Krejci that weren’t able to generate anything productive with No. 46. The B’s obviously have massive production from the top line in Bergeron’s absence and have found a respectable fourth line that can get the job done for Claude Julien. Even the third line has found some footing after the B’s bench boss replaced rookie Austin Czarnik with veteran Riley Nash and instead went with a bigger, tougher power line with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the wings.

Now, Backes goes back to his rightful spot on the wing with Krejci and 21-year-old rookie Danton Heinen looks to replace a scuffling Ryan Spooner at left wing for tonight’s home opener vs. the New Jersey Devils. Backes is ready to bring some needed balance to the forward lines after the B’s top line really carried them over the first three games of the season and produced a team-high four goals for David Pastrnak.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Backes also knows that he’s exactly the kind of strong, determined net-front presence with goal-scoring ability that Krejci has always produced with over the course of his 10-year NHL career.

“I won’t be involved in the immediate face-off, but [I will be involved] in helping him on the 50/50 draws to win the puck back. Just talk all over the ice like we have been with Heinen on the wing he’s got two veteran guys with him, and we need to make him feel comfortable to be a very productive member [of the line],” said Backes. “We’ll get back to cooking a little bit with how we were looking before I was forced to play center.

“I think it puts the other teams in a predicament with that they’re going to try to defend if we have a couple-pronged attack. It’s a kind of pick-your-poison kind of deal. A checking line can typically do a good job of neutralizing a line, but when you have multiple options and multiple guns pointed at them it’s a little bit more of a predicament for them. When we’re healthy, we’re going to have that.”

So, the hope is that having a power forward, play-finisher like Backes is going to allow him time and space to create plays that have a little more hope of being turned into scoring chances at the offensive end of the ice.

“When injuries happen you’ve got to balance the team and that’s what happened. But I’m happy [Backes] is back on our line,” said Krejci, who has always been at his best while utilizing big, strong wingers on his line whether it was Milan Lucic or Nathan Horton over the years. “Hopefully we can get the chemistry early on as a line, and help the team to win.

“[Backes] is a right-handed shot, so that’s nice to have.  I had two lefties there [in Spooner and Heinen] and sometimes it’s tough to get a good pass on the backhand. He’s been playing well the first two games, so hopefully I can keep up and we can get some chemistry to help the team win.”

So, it remains to be seen how long it will take Krejci to find his offensive mojo while centering a line combo of Heinen-Krejci-Backes that didn’t get much of a look in the preseason, but the sooner, the better for a Bruins team that needs to start firing on all offensive cylinders while still working through their defensive challenges.