Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

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Lucic reaches 20-goal mark, wants more

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Milan Lucic is happy. But in no way is he satisfied.

Not even after scoring his 20th goal on Wednesday night at the TD Garden, helping the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

His wrist shot from the top of the left circle beat Tomas Vokoun to the top-right corner and gave the B's a 2-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second period.

It's the first time in his four-year career that Lucic has reached the 20-goal mark. It comes in just 47 games. The closest he came to that mark was two seasons ago, when he finished his sophomore campaign with 17 goals in 72 regular-season games.

Reaching the 20-goal mark was always something Lucic expected to accomplish. Others thought he'd eventually reach it as well. But bot many thought it would come this quickly into a season.

Including Lucic himself.

"That was a big question coming in, for myself and a lot of people," said Lucic. "I thought I was able to get to that 20-goal mark. It came a lot quicker than I thought, but most importantly, it was a big goal to help the team win here, and it's great that we're first in the division, heading into the All-Star break."

The Bruins are first in the division and third in the conference, thanks in part to Lucic's offensive outburst in the first half of the year.

To put into perspective just how much Lucic's offense has meant to the team through 50 games this season, just look at Nathan Horton's recent 20-game slide, in which he has only one goal.

Horton was acquired to put the puck in the net, more than than anyone else on the team. He has only 12 goals at the All-Star break, a total that should be considered an "underachievement."

Add Horton's midseason slump to Marc Savard's continuous concussion issues, and this is a Bruins team that could only be first place in the division if someone stepped up and had a career year.

Lucic seems to be that guy.

"I think Lucic is at a stage in his career now, where he's still a young player, but he's got enough experience," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "This is going to be his fourth year, but he's one of those guys that is building consistency in his game. And what should I expect from him? I should expect him to continue playing a physical game. We should expect him to continue to produce, because he's capable of doing that. I think what we've seen in the first half, is what he's capable of doing for us, as we move on.

"He's also one of those players that I think always comes up big in the big games, such as playoffs, and all that stuff. He's one of those guys that really rises to the occasion, so you hope that continues as well."

There wasn't an All-Star break last year because of the Olympics. But in the final three months of the regular season (from February on), Lucic scored only six goals. After 20 goals through the month of January this season, seeing Lucic with only six goals in the final three months this year would be awfully disappointing to Bruins fans, and the organization.

But in fairness to his struggles last season, Lucic admitted after the fact that his high-ankle sprain, which he suffered in late November, affected his production for the rest of the season.

His ankle seems to be healthy this season, and as a result, he's already scored 11 more goals this season than he scored all of last year, in three less games.

Knowing that now he needs to be one of the go-to offensive threats on the Bruins this season, Lucic isn't satisfied with 20.

"It was real tough, going through what I went through, being out for so long, and especially, even when I came back, that high-ankle sprain was still bugging me," said Lucic about last season's struggles. "To work as hard as I did this summer, and to get rewarded for it thus far throughout the season is great. I can't stop here. I've got to keep pushing for more."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.