Milan Lucic is fully prepared for Dale Hunter and his ‘underachieving’ Capitals
|04.11.12 at 9:22 am ET|
It was on April 28 that year when Hunter laid out Pierre Turgeon, after Turgeon had just scored the clinching goal for the Islanders late in the third period of the decisive Game 6 of their opening playoff round against Hunter’s Capitals.
Hunter was understandably ticked. But he inexplicably checked Turgeon from behind and into the side boards, separating his shoulder and knocking him out of the next round against the defending champion Penguins.
Hunter received a then-record 21 game suspension for the hit. Turgeon returned for the semi-finals against the eventual champion Canadiens after missing seven games.
Fast forward 19 years and Hunter is now coaching the Capitals in the first-round series against the defending champion Bruins. The Capitals – who finished with the best record in the NHL two seasons ago – were 42-32-8 but had to struggle to get into the playoffs this season in the final week, finishing as the No. 7 seed. That’s quite a change for a team that fired Bruce Boudreau early on this year because they were 12-9-1 and underachieving with names like Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
“You can say the Capitals have probably underachieved a bit this year,” Lucic said of the Capitals, who actually won the season series against the Bruins this year, 3-1. “They have a lot of great players over there that can definitely do some damage. They’ve had some success against us this year. Season success and playoff success are two different things, which we’ve found out in the past. We know that they’re a great team and have a lot of great weapons and a lot of great players who can step up and be an impact in this series and I think that’s what’s going to make this a real challenging and hard-fought series for us.”
Hunter instilled a new dedication to physical play and no doubt realizes his finesse-laiden Capitals need to channel at least some of his toughness against the new Big Bad Bruins in order to have a chance.
“Especially playing under Dale Hunter, I’m sure they’re going to be real physical,” Lucic said. “They have some forwards that definitely will get in there and get dirty. Even a guy like Ovechkin is not afraid of the physical play and likes to use his body. It’s a way that they have success. For us, we have to do whatever we can to be physical and I think that’s what’s going to make it even a better series because both teams are going to go after each other.
“Part of our identity and part of our success is being physical, regardless of who we play so we have a game plan and we have a type of way we’re going to play and playing physical is one of the ways. We’re going to do everything we can to establish a forecheck and finish our checks and it’s important for us to do that.”
Lucic insisted the Bruins aren’t about to take the Capitals lightly and certainly place no significance on their No. 7 position in the conference.
“I think you definitely learn a lot,” Lucic said. “You can take from what you’ve done in the past and kind of use that experience, hopefully to your advantage. One thing that we did [this season] was that we never took anyone or any opponent for granted. Just because we’re second and they’re seventh doesn’t mean a thing right now. What happened last year is last year. This is a new year, new playoff. Everyone starts off at 0-0. It’s important for us to have a good start, come out strong and hopefully have a good game in Game 1.”