Milan Lucic  scored his 20th goal Wednesday night in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over Florida, and his coach is hoping to see more of that from the power forward in the post-All Star break portion of their schedule.
“I think what we’ve seen in the first half is what he’s capable of doing for us as we move on,” Claude Julien  said. “He’s also one of those players that I think has always come up big in the big games, such as playoffs and all that stuff. He’s one of those guys who always rises to the occasion and you hope that continues as well.”
Lucic made it clear from Day 1 of camp that he had every intention of scoring at least 20 goals this season. Now that he’s reached the goal before the break, bigger and better things should be ahead.
“It’s obviously something that I talked about coming in, and that was a goal for myself and [to] reach it as quickly as I did, it’s a good step for me,” Lucic said. “I couldn’t be happier right now, but definitely not satisfied.”
Last season, the expectations for the 21-year-old star on the rise were the same but the results were not. He scored nine goals in 50 games during an injury-riddled season, with a plus-minus rating of minus-7.
“Yeah, a lot more, definitely,” Lucic said when asked if he might be enjoying this season a little more. “It was real tough going through what I went through. Being out for so long, and especially even when I came back, that high ankle sprain was still bugging me so to work as hard as I did this summer and to get rewarded for it thus far throughout the season is great. And definitely like I said before, I can’t stop here. I’ve got to keep pushing for more.”
A year later, he’s 22 and he’s already surpassed his career-best goal total from 2009 when he potted 17 and had 25 assists, raising those expectations that were there last season.
“I think Looch is at a stage in his career now, he’s still a young player, but he’s got enough experience here now that it’s going to be his fourth year but here’s one of those guys that’s building consistency in his game,” Julien said. “I should expect him continue playing a physical game, we should expect him to continue to produce because he’s capable of doing that.”
Now, on a line with David Krejci , he has hit his stride, scoring four goals in his last five games.
“It was a relief that he did come back after losing Savvy [Marc Savard ],” Lucic said of Krejci coming back from a second-period collision with the corner boards. “Obviously that was a tough loss, you don’t want to see another key centerman going down. So it was great that he was able to tough it out and recover and keep going.
“[The goals] didn’t come right away, that’s for sure,” Lucic said. “But they’ve come in the last five games here. So like I said, all the credit to my linemates here, they’ve been finding me and I’ve been able to get open for them. And I’ve been working on my quick release this summer and also a lot with [coaches] Geoff Ward and Jarvy [Doug Jarvis], just working on one-timers and getting myself in scoring positions and getting a good, hard, quick shot off.”
Obviously, neither Lucic nor the Bruins will be satisfied with personal goals alone. They are looking for bigger and better things – and that comes later in the spring.
“That was a big question coming in from myself and a lot of people if I was able to get to that mark, and it came a lot quicker than I thought but most importantly it was a big goal to help the team win here,” Lucic said. “And it’s great that we’re first in the division heading into the All-Star Break.”
Everyone – including Lucic – remembers the good and bad of last spring.
Lucic scored the only goal in the third period of Game 2 of the Eastern semis against the Flyers last spring as the Bruins snapped a 2-2 tie and prevailed, 3-2.
Perhaps the biggest moment of Lucic’s career came five games later in Game 7 at the Garden. He scored twice in the first period, including an unassisted tally to put the Bruins up, 3-0. Bruins fans don’t need to be reminded what happened next.
Maybe Lucic can help the Bruins re-write that script this spring.