Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense

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Marchand, Lucic bring emotion to table in lieu of offense

Here's something that's now a news flash if you've paying close attention to the Bruins during the playoffs: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand arent exactlylighting up the scoreboard.

That much is obvious after three playoff games where neither winger has managed any involvement in anything remotely close toa goal during the postseason despite combining for an impressive54tallies during the regular season.

But both players also fill the role of emotional catalyst for the Bruins, and performed that task perfectly at a time their teammates needed their spark. Both Lucic and Marchand playedmajor energy roles for the B's in their stirring4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center -- a winthat gives them a slight2-1 leadOvie and Co.in the quarterfinal playoff series. Rest assured that both hockey clubs have gone from cordial, polite playoff hockey to puck hatred in one short 60 minute playoff contest.

"The more we play each other, the more we hate each other and the worse things get out there, said Marchand. Its definitely going that way.

Lucic was breathing fire all over the icewith a game-high eight hits among Bostons whopping58 registered hits for the game. It appeared early that he was determined to make an impact ona pivotal middle game in the serieseven ifgeneratedfrom a menace and intimidation perspective.

It seemed that No. 17 wanted to end every period with a violent hockey flourish that let his Washington rivals know he wasn't going anywhere. He'd be there all night ready to inflict punishment. Lucic ended the first period in a shoving match with Nicklas Backstrom after the Capitals center cross-checked him in front of the Boston net. The play ended when Bostons power forward knocked Backstroms helmet off his head and both sides retreated to their respective dressing rooms.

Both players were whistled off for matching penalties to start the second period, but the lasting image from the incident was Zdeno Chara skating around the ice with Mike Green in a headlock that Jake "The Snake" Roberts would have been proud of.

Lucic was at it again in the second period when he tangled with both Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich before a face-off. Chimera and Laich actually exchanged places because Lucic threw the latter Washington forward down to the ice, and once again both players were whistled off for matching penalties.

Finally Lucic lost his patiencein the third period of a 3-3 hockey game when Dennis Wideman cross-checked the Bs left winger in the back. The cross-check arrived justas play was whistled dead in front of the Washington net. It took Karl Alzner, Wideman and Matt Hendricks to hold back the rampaging, enragedLucic, and he was whistled for a double-minor that some might have seen as ill-timed or poorly conceived at the time.

The skirmish led Alzner to pantomime that Lucic was crying and drying his eyes as No. 17 was being led off to the penalty box. The forward, voted the toughest player in the NHL by his peers, had a fleeting reaction to Alzner and on-ice bravery that will likely disappear when challenged by Boston's brawling left winger.

I dont even know what to say coming from my side to show that Im not a crybaby, said Lucic. Thats a lot to say coming from a guy in Alznerthat has two roughing penalties in three years, so there you go.

But all the aforementionedplays were under thesameheading: Lucic setting a physical tone for the game against a Capitals team that hasn't always been known as the strongest group of fighters when backed into a corner. Lucics Bruins teammates picked up on that when Zdeno Chara banged home the game-winning goal a little more than 30 seconds after Lucic's post-whistle histrionics.The Bruins freelyadmitted afterward that Lucic's actions fired them up as a team this time around, and they pretty much always do once he puts himself into that postseason zone he hasn't quite reached.

I think we showed a lot more emotion and that goes a long way in this series, said Daniel Paille. Lucic is definitely an emotional guy and he does whatever he can to get us going. He definitely has the right attitude. Were happy to have that. He might not be scoring right now, but he cares and he shows it out on the ice.

On Marchands end, the Little Ball of Hate didnt have a shot on net in 15:20 of ice time, but he did draw a Jason Chimera slashing call and a Nicklas Backstrom cross-checking penalty in the third period. The rabble-rousing winger also absorbed an Alzner elbow during the game that had the Washington defenseman following Marchand to the team bus Monday nightto apologize for it postgame.

So its clear Bostons agitator was doing his job as well when the offense wasnt coming quite so easily. That's just as important for Marchand as an emotional catalyst as it is for Lucic, who gets the crowd moving in a completely different way.

Emotions are running a little higher out there and things are getting a little more physical, said Marchand. Those are games that you get emotionally attached to and those are the ones that you want to play in.

When things arent going your way then you have to bring something else to the table. You saw Looch getting physically involved and trying to take control. Thats what you have to do: find a way to draw penalties or play physical to get momentum somehow.

Lucic and Marchand are still looking for their first playoff goals this season for the Bruins, but make no mistake: their paw marks were all over a pivotal road victory in Washington.

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season.