|Looking back and ahead: Milan Lucic||04.30.12 at 6:14 pm ET|
With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.
2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 26 goals, 35 assists (career-high), 61 points, plus-7
Contract status: $4.083 million cap hit in 2012-13, restricted free agent next summer
Looking back: In the regular season, Lucic was more or less the same regular-season player as he was in the 2010-11 season. His 61 points fell just short of his career-best 62 two seasons ago, and he once again stayed healthy for a full season (Lucic’s only game missed was due to suspension). Lucic was one of the Bruins’ six 20-goal scorers, and he did nothing during the regular season to suggest he isn’t one of the game’s best power forwards.
Then the playoffs happened. For the second straight postseason, Lucic was a ghost, and he finished the first round with three assists. Unlike last postseason, one in which he was dealing with a sinus infection and a broken toe, injury wasn’t an excuse this time.
Looking ahead: The last reputation a player wants to develop is that of a guy who disappears when it matters the most, especially when Lucic once showed he could do it (18 points in 23 postseason games from 2009-10). He’s entering the last year of his contract, and with David Krejci signed for big bucks ($5.25 million a year for the next three seasons), and guys like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin also coming up at the end of the next year, the team will need to assess whether he’ll be worth committing significant dollars to going forward.
One thing to watch with Lucic is that he’s certainly on the list of Bruins being watched by Brendan Shanahan. By the time Lucic received his first regular-season suspension, it seemed pretty clear that the act — a hit on Flyers’ forward Zac Rinaldo — wasn’t as bad as past indiscretions, but that his reputation had finally caught up to him.
A lot of what Lucic can do also depends on whether Nathan Horton is healthy. When Lucic and Horton are playing together, it makes for a very powerful line that wears defenders down. Without Horton, Lucic needs to make his presence felt even more from a physical standpoint in order to make the line as tough as it used to be.
Lucic has established himself as one of the best power forwards in the game, and the Bruins should be able to count on him for no less than 60 points a season as long as he remains healthy. What has haunted him of late has been the postseason, and with the team expected to make deep playoff runs each year, that’s something that needs to change.
|Tuukka Rask wants to remain with Bruins, Peter Chiarelli ‘not inclined’ to trade Tim Thomas||04.27.12 at 3:50 pm ET|
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said Friday that he hopes to sign a long term deal with the team this offseason. A restricted free agent, Rask could refuse to sign with the team and force his way out of town, but the 25-year-old netminder said his plan is to stay.
“I think you guys know the answer to that question,” he said. “I’ve always said that I like it here and I want to come back, so that’s about it.”
Furthermore, Rask said that he wouldn’t require the Bruins to give him the starting job in order for him to return. Asked whether he’d still sign if the team planned on keeping Tim Thomas as the starter, Rask said he would.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, meanwhile, said that he is “not inclined” to trade either one of his goalies this offseason. Rask and the Bruins have yet to begin negotiating.
“I think there’s a clear plan,” Rask said. “I think everybody’s been talking about it for a long time. It’s not about the money, it’s more about what’s good for everybody. I’ve always said I like it here, and I think we have a great group of guys and the organization is great, so I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be here. In my case, I love it here and we’ve just got to make things work.”
|Bruins explain injuries to Patrice Bergeron, Adam McQuaid, Tyler Seguin||04.27.12 at 1:30 pm ET|
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron had to play the final four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with a strained oblique and a broken nose.
The oblique injury was suffered in Game 3 against the Capitals, and it got worse before eventually forcing him out of Game 5 in the third period. He played in Games 6 and 7, but only took one faceoff in each of the final two games.
Bergeron had a scoring opportunity in overtime against the Capitals in Game 7, but couldn’t control the puck and sent it wide of the net. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Friday that the injury prevented him from making the play, noting that Bergeron “couldn’t stretch for it.”
Adam McQuaid did indeed have a concussion from the hit that he took from Capitals forward Jason Chimera on March 29. McQuaid suffered a cut above his eye, causing pain that he said may have masked his concussion symptoms at the time. He tried returning on April 5 against the Senators, but didn’t feel right and came out of the game in the second period.
In other injury news, Tyler Seguin might need surgery on a detached tendon in one of his knuckles on his left hand.
|Zdeno Chara a finalist for Norris Trophy||04.26.12 at 12:40 pm ET|
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was among the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to ‘to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.’ The other finalists are Nashville’s Shea Weber and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson.
Chara had a career-best 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) during the regular season and his plus-33 rating was tops among all defensemen. This is his fourth nomination for the Norris, which he won in 2009.
|Claude Julien: Capitals ‘were the better team’||04.25.12 at 11:56 pm ET|
After the Bruins failed to make it out of the first round for the first time in four years, Bruins coach Claude Julien gave credit where credit was due by commending the defensively tight and shot-blocking Capitals.
“At the end of the series, when you look at their team and you look at ours, they were the better team,” Julien said. “They had more guys going than we did and they played us tough.”
The Bruins became the second-consecutive defending Stanley Cup champions to be eliminated in the first round, as the Blackhawks were bounced by the Canucks to open last postseason. Julien mentioned the difficulty with putting together a successful season following the Bruins’ 2011 championship, but ultimately said the series came down to the Bruins being outplayed.
“Right now, I’m not going to stand here and nitpick at our team because when I look at this hockey club ad what it went through last year, and you look at teams that have been through that situation and how they struggled throughout the year, we still finished at the top of our division,” he said. “We still finished second in the conference and we had really grind it out. It was a challenging year for our guys and it was a challenging series as well.
“They made it tough on us, and they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played and the number of shots they blocked and how they helped their goaltender through it. The young goaltender played extremely well, so let’s not forget to give them a lot of credit for how they handled us. At the end of the day, when you look at your team, your team wasn’t playing its best hockey in the series.
“Before this day started, you’d just hope that they could get through this Game 7 and hope to pick some momentum up as you move forward in the playoffs, but you have to get through this game, and we weren’t able to.”
|Tough act to follow: Bruins eliminated in first round by Capitals||04.25.12 at 10:24 pm ET|
The Bruins’ season ended in disappointing fashion Wednesday night, as they fell to the Capitals, 2-1, in overtime to decide Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The loss marks the first time in four years that the B’s have failed to make it out of the first round.
The series was the closest in the history of the NHL, as no other series have had each game decided by one goal. Joel Ward‘s overtime goal made the difference in the game and the series, as Washington outscored the B’s, 16-15, in the series. Four of the seven games in the series were decided in overtime.
The Capitals got on the board in the first period when a Milan Lucic turnover led to a John Carlson wrist shot that Matt Hendricks redirected in. The goal ended Tim Thomas‘ Game 7 shutout streak at 139:03, as he had blanked both the Lightning and the Canucks in Game 7s last postseason.
Tim Thomas stopped 24 of the 25 shots he saw in regulation, while Braden Holtby made 30 saves on 31 Boston shots prior to overtime.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Jason Chimera, who has been a villain around these parts since his hit on Adam McQuaid late in the season, chose a pretty bad time to put the Bruins on the power play. The Capitals forward took Boychuk down when the two were chasing a puck in the Bruins’ zone, resulting in a holding call. The Bruins wouldn’t be able to take advantage.
Boston also had a perfect opportunity to take the lead in the third period when Roman Hamrlik went off for holding the stick at 1:18. Unfortunately for the B’s, the power play of Games 1-4 showed up and the Bruins weren’t able to muster any production. The Bruins finished the first round 2-for-23 on the man advantage.
– In games as close as the ones this series had, playing mistake-free hockey is key, and that means limiting turnovers. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they were rather prone to them, and the Capitals got their first-period goal after Lucic overstated a puck along the half wall in the Bruins zone. The Capitals gained possession, and Carlson fired a wrist shot on net that Hendricks redirected past Thomas. In the second period, Boychuk and Andrew Ference had turnovers in their own zone on convective shifts.
– The first period was Braden Holtby’s series in a nutshell. The B’s outshot the Capitals, 11-5, but only a Rich Peverley bid late in the period challenged the rookie goaltender. The Capitals successfully play their 1-4 neutral zone trap to made it tough for the B’s to get good rushes, and when they broke into the zone their shots were often from outside the perimeter. Holtby continued to give up big rebounds, but the Bruins had trouble capitalizing on them. For example, Benoit Pouliot ant a puck to Brian Rolston in front after a first-period blast from Zdeno Chara yielded a big rebound, but Rolston couldn’t get to it.
– The playoffs aren’t a time for one to lose their cool, and that nearly happened with the one of the last players from whom you’d expect to see foul play. Rich Peverley was sandwiched between Holtby and Carlson in front of the net late in the second period. Holtby shoved Peverley to the ice, and when the B’s forward got up he started to slash Holtby up high. He held up before skating away, but he could have put the Bruins in a real tight spot entering the third period had he followed through.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
– Seguin generally avoids contact at all costs, but he really played a grown-up shift when it was most needed. Seguin had to lunge at multiple bodies and take contact in order to put that puck in, and he did so instinctively. The Bruins need Seguin to continue to roll up his sleeves like that.
– The Bruins did an admirable job of killing off a third-period Patrice Bergeron penalty with nine minutes remaining. The Capitals were applying pressure heavily, and the odds were further stacked against the B’s when Dennis Seidenberg broke his stick. The B’s still managed, as Thomas juggled a save on Ovechkin and lost the puck behind the net before eventually covering to get a whistle.
|Bruins-Capitals Game 7 Live Blog: Jordan Caron in, Shawn Thornton out||04.25.12 at 7:26 pm ET|