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.