Bruins’ young veterans ready to step up
|04.13.10 at 1:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins roster is dotted with young players within their first three years in the league. The last crop of Boston youngsters came of age on a Bruins team that was not very good and had little shot of making the playoffs, let alone begin to think about having some postseason success.
This group is different. Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and company have never been on a Bruins team that has not been to the postseason, while Krejci and Lucic were part of the memorable series in the spring of 2008 where the No. 8 seeded Bruins took the top seeded Canadiens to seven games before succumbing to their rivals.
“Well, that was a little bit of a different atmosphere,’ Lucic said about his first game against Montreal as opposed to his other playoff experiences. ‘They have got good fans in Buffalo. But Montreal with twenty-one-and-a-half thousand screaming fans, I have never heard a building so loud as I have heard that. So, that was a different feeling, for sure, but after your first couple shift, after your first period, everything tends to be more relaxed, you get the jitters out of you.’
Boston is hoping that the experience that the young players have gained in the past two to three seasons starts to pay off in this postseason allows them to play better to start the series this year around. Young players, by virtue of never having done it, have a tendency to choke up in their first few shifts or periods in the playoffs because it becomes a different style of game than they have ever seen. On Tuesday, Wheeler, Matt Hunwick and Johnny Boychuk (who is entering his first NHL playoff series but has been through several at the AHL level) said that it is an adjustment to start but then it is just a matter of getting the skates moving.
“Well, it is pretty simple. When you have had experience at it, you should be a better player going into the next one,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think those guys, Lucic is Lucic and this is Krejci’s third one and this is Wheeler’s second playoffs. At least there is experience for those guys so this year you would expect them to handle it even better.”
For Lucic, that is remembering how his physical play in the last two seasons spurred the Bruins in respective series. In 2008 against the Canadiens he was a pin ball around the rink and a disrupting nuisance to any Habitante who dared get in his way. Last year he ended up being suspended against the Canadiens for a Game 3 of the first round series after a dust up with Maxim LaPierre. Lucic serves that as a learning lesson but says that no matter the history, the playoffs are the time to be physical, consequences be what they will.
“I think a big reason we stuck in that Montreal series my first year in the playoffs where we were the complete underdogs and were supposed to lose in four was that we played physical and were able to kind of wear them down,” Lucic said. “We ended up losing the series but we wore them down where we were able to take three games. It just goes to show that it is a team effort.”
Wheeler struggled through the playoffs a touch last year, playing in eight of the team’s 11 games and being a healthy scratch to finish the Carolina series. At that point in the season Wheeler had hit the rookie wall and had been less effective through the latter half of the season and it came as a surprise to nobody that Julien was forced to put him on the bench. This year Wheeler feels good about the team headed into the postseason.
“I think we are pretty confident with the way we are playing right now and it might be a little bit of a change from last year, it is a little bit of change going into the playoffs,” Wheeler said. “Once you get through the first period it is more or less like the same game. Obviously there is a little bit more noise in the crowd and things are a bit more intense but once you get comfortable.”
Lucic often times has “Nuke LaLoosh Syndrome” where he gives the media a carefully crafted yet ultimately canned response to questions. Yet, when asked about what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, his voice picked up a little bit and there was a hint of a smile in his eyes. His response has been heard a thousand times by a thousand different reporters, but for the young, hulking forward, you could tell he meant it. After all, despite how professional athletes are viewed at times by the media as boring, they still have that driving passion to raise their game and to find glory.
“Obviously, you shouldn’t change you game man, you got to rise up to the occasion. You’ve got to take it on yourself. Do you want to be remembered as the guy who buckles under the pressure and can’t perform when you really need to or are you going to be a guy who plays with heart and steps up when a team counts on him,” Lucic said “That is basically what it is. You can’t be tense, you can’t squeeze the hell out of your stick, you can’t do all those things where you are going to make yourself nervous and not making the plays that you are supposed to be making. You just to relax and play your game and do you best and not worry about any thing else that is going on.”