By Joe Haggerty
TAMPA Milan Lucic sounds almost wistful when talking about the sudden emergence of Tyler Seguin in the Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bs power forward remembers being a 19-year-old in the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, and the kind of ignorance is bliss attitude of the young that came along with feeling no expectations or pressure weighing him down.
Lucic had a pair of goals in that seven game series, but was a younger player adding his thumping physical style while other players shouldered the offensive load as underdogs against the Habs. Thats a lot different than being your teams leading goal scorer during the regular season, and feeling all kinds of pressure while putting up six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 14 games along with a plus-8 rating.
For me this years playoff feels a lot different than the last couple of years playoffs," Lucic said. "I remember when I was his age playing in the playoffs and there was no pressure. Youd just go out there and play. Its different going into a season rather than going into the playoffs, especially for him where no expectations with all of this other stuff going. He was supposed to score and all of this crazy stuff. Here nobody really talked about him and he was able to walk right in and play.
Thats what hes done; hes going out there and playing and thats why he was able to do what he could do."
Thats the situation Lucic is in now where hes been fielding questions like, Whats wrong? and Are you hurt? from media around the playoffs since the first couple of postseason games when Lucic was losing physical battles to P.K. Subban. The big winger was much better against the Flyers where he could stretch out his 6-foot-2, 235-pound body and punish Philadelphia players without worrying about too much faking, flopping or diving.
Still, Lucic leads the Eastern Conference and trails only Vancouvers Maxim Lapierre with 43 penalty minutes this season aided by a pair of game misconducts in 14 games with the Bruins. Some of that has been bad luck or bad decisions, but there have also been some encouraging performances within the postseason body of work.
Lucic was very good in Game 3 while setting up David Krejcis first period goal, and then going the extra mile to save a puck in the offensive zone that led to Andrew Ferences insurance goal. Lucic said it was a pure hustle play that he had a good feeling would lead to something positive, and it was indicative of the effort put in up and down the Bruins lineup.
He was good," Claude Julien said. "His fore-check, he chipped pucks in, he went after the puck aggressively and when you see a guy like Milan Lucic coming at you it makes you a little nervous. It can put you on your heels. So he created a lot of turnovers last night. But the other part you mentioned is it was important for him to be strong on the puck and not to lose it.
I thought he did that in Game 2 a lot and he got stripped from the puck. Earlier in the game he lost a couple of battles along the boards and I just kind of reminded him that the biggest asset of his game is about winning battles. He did a great job of refocusing and bringing that part of his game back to that game that night. So I thought he was a really good player battling a minor injury, but hes battling through it.
It may not be the same as it ever was for Lucic while he battles through the ins and outs of a scoring slump during the playoffs, but hes fighting through it and contributing in all manner of ways for the Bruins.
Big Bad Lucic still has a lot more to give before its all said and done, and hes proven this spring that he wont ever stop battling no matter the circumstances.