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.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.