New year, new expectations for Lucic

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New year, new expectations for Lucic

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Milan Lucic spent his first three seasons with the Bruins awash in potential, and showered in comparisons to power forwards with gaudy offensive totals.

Last season, the potential was realized as Lucic stepped into the offensive breach to post a 30-goal season. He nearly doubled his previous high in shots on goal by firing 179 shots on net and still maintained a 17 percent shooting percentage, thanks to his quick release, true aim for the scoring areas that he carved out around the cage with his big body.

Thats a gargantuan step up for a big lug of a forward that had previously popped in a career high of 17 goals, and was coming off an injury plagued season of finger and foot problems.

But will this be a case of Be careful what you ask for, because you just mightget it?Because, after all, everyone will expect Lucic to at least match the 30 goals, 60 points and plus-28 he posted last year.

Lucic knows that the expectations are there for him to match it moving forward. No matter what he does offensively over the rest of his NHL career, Lucic will always be looked at as a potential 30-goal scorer and expected to be a key offensive contributor for the Bruins. Its something hes acknowledged heading into the new season, but its also a thought that could get him into trouble if he dwells on it a little too much.

Ill tell you one thing: it was hard to get to that level last year, but I think its going to be even harder to match it again this season, said Lucic. Clearly I set the bar for myself and its going to be a challenge to get back to that mark. But if you start thinking about scoring goals and thats all that youre worried about thats when you start getting frustrated, forcing things and making uncharacteristic plays that you dont usually make.

Lucic can get into trouble when he strays too far away from the punishing forechecking, immovable puck possession and high effort formula that hes become renowned for around the NHL,

I know Ive got to remember those little things and those simple things like being strong up and down the walls that make me so successful, said Lucic. My focus is between the ears and getting my feet moving, and everything else usually tends to take care of itself.

What will be fascinating is if the goal-scoring and 16:35 of ice time per game expected out of Lucic mean that his gloves will be fastened to his hands in a decidedly non-fighting fashion. Lucic has become valuable enough to the Bruins that its counter-productive to have him loitering in the penalty box or banged up from battling the Colton Orr-types of the NHL world, but a good hockey brawl also helps fire up the forwards competitive embers when things get a little too quiet.

One thing is for certain: the career path and expectations of a player with such a unique combination of punishing brute strength and hockey skills wont necessarily go in a straight line.

The effort and will are always going to be there for No. 17, and the results along with some league accolades should start to follow.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.