Lucic, Neely return home to Vancouver


Lucic, Neely return home to Vancouver

By JoeHaggerty

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 Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.