Milan Lucic is hoping the last piece of his playoff experience this season mirrors that of last years, bathed in Stanley Cup glory. Lugging the Cup around his home city of Vancouver felt pretty good for the Bs power forward.
But his own personal playoff experience isnt something he wants to repeat. Thats because Lucic had a tough time getting the engine going last year at the end of the regular season, and that carried over into a tough start to his postseason.
Normally a big-game player, Lucic ended the season with a 10-game goal-scoring drought and smashed his toe early in the playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens. That slowed down his skating speed considerably and ate into his confidence level, and No. 17 looked uncharacteristically lost while getting just a pair of assists and a zero plusminus rating in the seven-game series win over the Habs.
"It wasnt that disappointing because we still won the Cup," Lucic said. "Obviously I was good enough to help us still win. It goes to show that the only thing matters is winning and losing. I feel like Ive become a big part of the team, so you take it upon yourself as a point of pride to step up your game and bring what you bring best to the table."
That wasnt a very good time for the Bs prototypical power forward.
You definitely learn a lot from playoff experiences and take that with you to make yourself a better player. I think I definitely finished off the season a lot better than I did last year, said Lucic. I think my skating is definitely better. I played a little bit more of a physical aspect to my game this year than last year.
I remember last year I struggled the final 10 games of the regular season and then struggled the first 10 games of the playoffs. There were some confidence issues and stuff going into last years playoffs. This year I feel much better about myself and my game. Im confident I can help my team be successful.
In all Lucic managed just nine points (3 goals and 6 assists) in 18 games during the first three rounds against the Canadiens, Flyers and Lightning last season. But he did manage to find his footing in the Cup Finals. Lucic had a pair of goals in the seven-game series win over the Canucks, and his pounding physical presence knocked defenseman Dan Hamhuis out of the series early in the proceedings.
Bs coach Claude Julien doesnt see the same kind of thing repeating itself this time around. Lucic had arguably his most consistent season as an NHL player and finished with six points in the Bs final six games while getting ready for another long, bountiful run through the Eastern Conference.
Growth and experience, maturity . . . all of those things go hand-in-hand. The last couple of months hes skated as well as Ive ever seen him skate, said Julien. Thats been part of his game. Hes been able to carry the puck rather than look for a center or his other linemates to carry it up the ice. His ability to carry it up the ice with speed and cut into the net has created a lot.
Thats what Looch is all about. His forecheck, his physical presence, his strength. And hes one of those guys thats incredibly hard to stop once hes determined to go to the net.
One scary note for opponents: Lucic says he has something to prove to himself when it comes to the postseason. That means bone-rattling hits and strong plays around the net should be on the menu for Lucic and his Bruins teammates. Success usually follows that recipe.
On a personal note I feel like I have something to prove this year after what happened to me in the playoffs last year, said Lucic. But I cant be disappointed in last year because we won. But I want to do everything I can to help the team win.
Lucic with something to prove is a frightening thing indeed.