|Incredible Looch mad, Looch smashing opponents again||03.09.09 at 11:02 pm ET|
Milan Lucic has heard some of the speculation.
The brawling hulk of a left winger was a destructive, decisive force on the ice through the first half of the season and was sitting atop the NHL leader board in the painful department of official hits. Big Looch certainly set the bruising B’s tone early in the winter when he blasted Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn with such awesome force that he actually shattered the glass above the boards at the Garden.
But a shoulder injury just before the NHL All-Star break knocked Lucic out of the lineup and kept him away from the All-Star weekend festivities up in Montreal. The 20-year-old forward didn’t seem to be himself upon returning from the injury, and was shying away from his signature violent body checks. Looch also wasn’t dropping the gloves and brawling, and he certainly wasn’t huffing and puffing, gathering up a head of skating steam, and crunching opposing skaters like annoying little bugs on a speeding windshield.
Was it the lingering effect of the shoulder injury that made Lucic tentative when it came to doling out his usual diet of punishment and pain to the other hockey team? Was it simply a valley in the intensity department during his second season on the NHL roller coaster — a career point when many young hockey players are still figuring out their game and learning to conserving their energy over a long 82 game schedule.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has stressed on multiple occasions throughout the season just how important Looch’s physicality and willingness to finish off thunderous checks are to Boston’s ultimate hockey fate. Quite simply: when Lucic skates and hits and intimidates, the Bruins are a far, far better hockey team.
“(Looch’s physicality) is something that’s a part of our team identity and when you lose that part it takes away from our game. When you have that in our lineup with the understanding that he’s got to bring that night in and night, it certainly makes us better and tougher to play against,” said Julien. “There have been times when you’ve seen him slip a little bit in that area, and we’ve had to remind a little bit of what it does for the team and his game.
“But everybody seems to have something that they bring to the table that’s really good for the hockey club, and it slips and it needs to brought back to their attention in one way or another,” added Julien.
So what was it that kept slipping Lucic into snooze mode, and prevented him from knocking the living bejesus out of opponents?
Would you believe the Big, Bad Looch simply wasn’t snortingly mad enough to go out onto the ice and start banging bodies? The Incredible Looch was much more Dr. Bruce Banner than Hulk during the stretch of largely invisible performances.
“For a guy like me, I really start to get into the game when (a hit) happens early,” said Lucic. “It’s good to go out and be a presence and be a physical player. Obviously there’s a lull (to the season) and whatnot, but I just wasn’t getting there to make the hits. A lot of people use the expression that I was just ‘sleeping’. Nobody did anything to get me mad, I guess, and I was back on my heels more than I was on my toes.
“It’s good when you get the emotions and competitiveness into it, and I need to take it upon myself to get revved up before every game so I’m ready to get going. There’s no excuse for not being a physical presence if nobody out on the ice is getting me mad.”
That’s something that gives the term “anger management” a whole new spin for Lucic in the violent world of ice hockey.
But have no fear Bruins Nation, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder said the problem is “under control” — and the results seem to agree with his assessment. Lucic is readying for the ice battles before the game begins, and those skaters in unfriendly sweaters have been put on notice that they’re again in Looch’s crosshairs. It’s a development that will continue for the final 15 games of the regular season and into the playoff battles that are sure to follow.
Whether its Shawn Thornton stealing Looch’s favorite stick just before game time or Lucic simply finding the right “flash point” song on his iPod that will fly him into a glove-dropping rage before the game, the brawny winger has finally tapped back into the anger and passion that transformed him into such a vital factor for the B’s out on the frozen sheet.
Lucic leveled a game-high nine hits in the Sunday rematch against the New York Rangers Sean Avery — who famously hit Lucic from behind and sparked a huge brawl in the memorable Dallas Stars game earlier this season — and registered Lucic-like six hit totals against both the Coyotes and Blackhawks upon returning from an “upper body Injury” last week.
It’s clear that Lucic has regained touch with his inner punisher since returning to game action, and the Bruins have been all the better for it. So, feel free to seek out Lucic on the street prior to one of the Black and Gold’s upcoming games this season, and be sure to tell him that it’s okay to get angry.
Bruins fans really like the Incredible Looch when he gets angry.
|Straight through the checking glass||10.24.08 at 12:29 pm ET|
The B’s Friday morning practice was one predictably filled with skating, more skating and a big helping of sheepish regret after frittering one away against a divisional opponent the night before at the Garden. The B’s are still looking for their first win on home ice, and Claude Julien still clearly wasn’t happy with the effort against the Leafs. Friday morning the B’s whistle blower called it “by far our worst game of the season.”
It wasn’t an out-and-out punitive bag skate for the Bruins at practice with the Atlanta Thrashers on the schedule for Saturday night, but it was clear that the team was being called on to reinforce the little things: more grit and tenacity around the net and the danger areas in the offensive zone and the mental strength to stick within Julien’s defensive system when play starts to break down on the ice.
“We need to get a little hungrier,” said Julien. “I think being hungrier can get us over the hump a little. It’s not what our fans deserve, and that’s why we have to show that we have some pride and bounce back tomorrow and show [the fans] the real Boston Bruin team.”
One moment of levity during the media session following practice involved the Looch — AKA Milan Lucic — recounting how he basically threw a Toronto Maple Leafs player through the glass boards and shattered a 1/2 inch thick pane of glass on the side wall. Lucic said that he thinks that the hit was aided by both his and Mike Van Ryn’s sticks hitting the top of the glass-like material, where the acrylic sheet is most vulnerable.
“It felt cool. I heard a couple of people went to the hospital and got stitches and stuff, and that kinda sucks that it happened like that. If you look at it, the way somebody explained it to me, it’s the top of the glass that’s very vulnerable. If you see the hit, when it happens our sticks hit the top of the glass and then I hit him. So just hitting the top of the glass put so much pressure and helped make it shatter. The sticks hitting the top of the glass triggered the whole thing and the glass breaking.”
Doesn’t that take away some of the sheer awesome power of the hit and growing mythology of the fire-breathing Looch lurking in Boston?
“Well, there still had to be a lot of power. Obviously now I know how to do it. It was a hard hit and it felt cool, that’s for sure,” said Lucic. “I received a lot of text messages and they were all like ‘holy smokes’ and one guy asked me if I worked out enough this summer. It was on TSN in Canada and all kinds of people told me they saw it.”
The hit reminded Marc Savard a bit of the plate of glass that landed on Janet Gretzky and knocked The Great One’s wife out cold after mustache-twirling Bruins villian Ulf Samuelsson crashed into the boards with similar force during a New York Rangers game. Savard was a member of the Rangers at the time and remembered the scary incident pretty vividly.
“Yeah, I had seen that when a guy got hit into the boards and the glass popped out and hit Janet right in the forehead,” said Saved. “She was bleeding out of the mouth. It was a scary sight, and just Thank God that nobody got seriously injured. It’s a part of the game. [Looch] is a big boy and anytime he hits you, you feel it. A lot of people felt that one.
“It really put a stall in the game. It was a good hit, but we didn’t really muster much after that. Saturday [against the Thrashers] gives a good chance to redeem that.”
Here’s the Samuelsson hit that knocked out the glass boards and subsequently injured The Great One’s wife back in the late 1990’s, courtesy of the all-knowing and all-powerful youtube:
|No Bread and Butter for B’s||at 12:43 am ET|
Not good times for the Bruins on a Thursday night when things looked so good early, but then the fat-and-happy B’s allowed a seemingly lesser Toronto Maple Leafs team to outskate, outwit and outlast them over the final two periods of a 4-2 loss at the TD Banknorth Frozen Sheet.
Things got off to a swimming start when Patrice Bergeron potted his first goal since coming back from a season-ending concussion last season and rookie Blake Wheeler shook off some rookie doldrums to the give the Spoked B’s a 2-0 lead. There was also some physical intimidation mixed in with the lamp-lighting as Dennis Wideman completely smoked Matt Stajan at mid-ice in the first period, and Milan Lucic shattered the large block of glass around the boards when he flattened Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn into the side wall.
The incident was voted Number One on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for the night, but the tumbling shards of glass also resulted in injuries to four fans while also causing a roughly 15 minute delay to replace the glass. In the balance of those few minutes the life seemed to get sucked right out of the Bruins, and they really couldn’t do anything right for the rest of the game.
The Leafs, on the other hand, went from being puck roadkill over the first 20:20 of the game to a nothing-to-lose bunch firing away on offense and watching Vesa Toskala and the Leafs ‘D’ shut down an easily satisfied B’s offense.
There were a multitude of postgame quotes about being outworked and outhustled in the Bruins locker room — the first time this season that the B’s dropped a stink bomb down at an NHL rink without their customary grit and sandpaper style. Two of the biggest culprits for the Thursday night breakdown seemed to be Phil Kessel and Marc Savard, who were kept off the scoreboard, registered only three shots on goal and each had a game-high two giveaways. Julien didn’t call them out by name, but you’ll get the drift. Heeere’s Julien:
“I think that some of our top guys tonight weren’t playing like our top guys. I’m not going to mention any names. I don’t have to. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Your best players have to be your best players. I know it clichÃ© but it is what it is. Our best players were certainly not our best players. Everyone from top to bottom was flat. This is our bread and butter, our work ethic, and our commitment. We didn’t have our bread and butter tonight.”
To the Bruins credit, many of the players rang a similar tone in the Boston locker room including Milan Lucic, the author of the body check felt ’round the hockey world, who teamed with Savard and Kessel to form a pretty lackluster line thar could get busted up by an unhappy Julien if things continue as they have. One thing is for certain: the guys in the Bruins sweaters will do a fair amount of skating in practice on Friday.
The Good news: P.J. Axelsson appeared to be over his back spasms.
In the bad news department: The Bruins power play went 0-for-4 and was another areas that made Julien chafe visibly following the hockey game: “We had a chance with a power play to score the third goal. You have to learn to play with the lead. When you have the lead it doesn’t mean you can take the foot off the pedal. Tonight even though it was a 2-0 hockey game we had a couple breaks, a couple lucky bounces to get the 2-0 lead. We should have taken advantage of that and understood that we weren’t playing that well.”