|Milan Lucic picks between his teams as Seahawks and Patriots meet in Super Bowl||01.19.15 at 1:35 pm ET|
“My West Coast team against my East Coast team,” the Bruins’ left wing said with a smile Monday.
Lucic, a native of Vancouver, grew up rooting for the Seahawks but has become a Patriots fan since coming to Boston. Lucic says his allegiance to the Pats, which grew as he nursed an ankle injury in the 2009-10 season, will win out when he watches Super Bowl XLIX.
“Since ‘09 when I had that high ankle sprain, I’ve kind of converted into a Patriots fan,” he said. “I’ve got to stick with my team now and keep cheering for the Pats.”
Lucic, the Bruins’ resident sportscaster/statistician, watched both the NFC and AFC title games Sunday, the first of which resulted in a comeback/collapse by the Seahawks and Packers, respectively, when the Seahawks, with just one timeout remaining, scored a touchdown to bring them within five points, recovered an onside kick on a botched blocking assignment, took the lead on a touchdown and two-point conversion and, after the Packers forced overtime with a field goal, won on a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Lucic thought the game was over when Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception of the game with 5:04 left and the Seahawks trailing by 12.
“I even congratulated some of my cousins from Milwaukee who are huge Green Bay fans for the win,” he said.
But then the Seahawks made their push and the Packers went to the bathroom in their pants. If the way that game ended reminded you of the Leafs blowing a three-goal lead in the final 10:42 of Game 7 of the first round against the B’s back in 2013, you aren’t alone.
“Obviously it brings back memories of the Game 7 against Toronto that we had,” Lucic said. “You kind of know the feeling that [the Seahawks are] feeling today and how excited they are to pull something like that off. I think looking back, the run that we went on having a comeback like that, because you’re so high and it seems like nothing can go wrong when you’re able to come back from something like that. I’m pretty sure that the Seahawks are feeling that right now. I think it’s going to be a real, real fun Super Bowl to watch.”
Between the Patriots’ six Super Bowl appearances since 2002, the Red Sox‘ three World Series titles since 2004, the Celtics‘ two recent NBA Finals appearances, the Revolution’s MLS Cup appearance last season and the Bruins’ Cup Finals appearances in 2011 and 2013, Boston fans are used to seeing title games and Boston athletes are used to playing in them.
Lucic says the Pats going back to the Super Bowl provides motivation for the B’s to follow suit in their league.
“You know the feeling of being there and you know the feeling of winning and winning it all,” Lucic said. “You see the Patriots make it back to the Super Bowl again, it definitely gives you a little bit of a boost, just because you know that feeling and you want to do whatever you can to re-live that feeling.”
|David Pastrnak’s first year burned off as his line comes down to earth||01.17.15 at 10:59 pm ET|
Given all of the attention that’s been placed on Pastrnak prior to the Bruins deciding to keep him and the success that the trio has had, the goose-egg from Boston’s trio actually is somewhat notable, really only because it’s the first time the line hasn’t been very good since being united.
Pastrnak, who has now officially accrued one season of service time in the eyes of the NHL and NHLPA (Saturday was 10th NHL game this season, which means this season is officially the first of his three-year entry level contract) and his linemates came down earth against the Blue Jackets, overpassing and losing the possession battle in Boston’s first regulation loss in 10 games.
“A lot of passing, a lot of missed passes,” Lucic said. “Maybe trying to do too much and didn’t play that north-south type of game that gave us success when we were put together originally.
“We have to know night-in, night-out as a line that in order to be successful and get results and contribute to the team, that there’s a certain way that we need to play. That’s a straight-ahead game and using our speed and obviously using our skill, but when we’re moving straight ahead and using all those things, that’s when we’re going to have success.”
The line nearly scored in the first period when David Krejci threw a puck on net from the top of the right circle that bounced off Pastrnak’s skates in front with half the net open. Pastrnak whiffed on his shot attempt as the puck glided to Blue Jackets netminder Curtis McElhinney. That stood as the line’s best chance, though Pastrnak did draw a penalty in the final minute of the period when he was tripped by Scott Hartnell.
But that was the extent of the good for the line offensively. Though Lucic tied for the team lead with five shots on goal, the Czech Davids combined for zero. Saturday was Pastrnak’s first game without a shot on goal since his NHL debut on Nov. 24.
Since coming up, Pastrnak has been a standout player. He’s found instant chemistry with Krejci, whose vision and creativity could make him a 30-goal scorer in future seasons. Yet there will be speed bumps along the way, such as when Pastrnak took a drop pass from Krejci entering the zone in the first period and, rather than shooting or finding Krejci again, forced a n0-look pass across the ice to Lucic that would have earned him an intentional grounding penalty in the NFL.
“That line didn’t do much for us tonight; nobody did as a matter of fact,” Julien said. “We need David to use his speed on the outside; we need Krech to make sure to use his speed on the outside and find him. If you’re going to be cute and try and overpass, you’re not going to get the results. That’s not how we’ve had success in the past. I don’t think that’s how we’re going to get success in the future.”
One telling takeaway that should bode well for this line’s future: In eight periods together, the Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak trio has yet to get scored on. They have four goals for and none against.
|Bruins confident David Pastrnak can hold up defensively||01.14.15 at 6:11 pm ET|
With David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first line will be able to score goals. The question is how many it will give up.
Given that Pastrnak, though clearly offensively gifted, is the youngest player in the NHL, it’s only fair to question how Krejci and Milan Lucic‘s line will do in the plus-minus department when playing against other teams’ top players. The line did not allow a goal in its first game together on Tuesday (really half a game, as they were united midway through the second), but it did score three. Claude Julien will take that any day of the week.
Yet the cautionary tale of the Tyler Seguin Experiment exists, as Pastrnak isn’t the first highly talented youngster to see time in the spot that has typically reserved for veteran power forwards (Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla) over the years.
When Horton was out for the season with a concussion in March of 2012, Julien went for broke offensively by sticking the then-20-year-old Seguin with Lucic and Krejci. They produced at over a goal-per-game clip, but gave up 10 goals before Julien separated them. When the B’s were desperate for offense in Game 7 of the first round in 2013, Julien again put Seguin with Krejci and Lucic, only to see them allow goals on their first two shifts.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Julien isn’t comfortable with lines that give up more goals than they score (insert then-why-does-he-ever-play-the-fourth-line quip here), so if he plays a trio together, he does so because he thinks it can do more good on the scoreboard than damage.
As such, it was interesting to see that, after the Lightning scored to make it a one-goal game Tuesday night, Julien kept Pastrnak with Krejci and Lucic for the top line’s next shift.
Or, put it this way: With the Bruins defending a one-goal lead in a game they had to win against the division leaders, Julien put the youngest player in the league — one whose defense seemed to be one of the things he’d need to improve in order to make the NHL — on the ice against Steven Stamkos and the Bruins lived to tell about it.
“This is not a time to test guys,” Julien said Wednesday of his decision to play Pastrnak in such an important spot. “If he was out there, it was because I felt comfortable with him.”
Julien said that he considers such decisions with young players to be ‘calculated chances.’ He noted Pastrnak’s improvement getting pucks out along the wall in his defensive zone (Julien makes a good point; Pastrnak had some struggles there in his first five game stint with the B’s) and sound decision-making he’d seen from the rookie all night that made him confident that Pastrnak would not be defensive liability in the game’s most crucial minutes.
“I think for a player to develop, when you see the right things on certain nights, you’ve got to allow that player to have an opportunity,” he said. “That’s how you gain that kind of experience in those situations. Throughout the game, if you’ve seen situations where he’s kind of struggled and had some tough situations come up, you try to keep him away from that. It’s up to me to stay on top of the player and the game itself and see whether he’s earned it.”
Both Krejci and Lucic have given their endorsements to Pastrnak; it would be rather difficult to do given that he’s scored four goals over his last two games. Yet while Lucic acknowledged that the trio must stick to the team’s system to avoid suffering the same score-a-goal, allow-two-goals fate that they did in the Seguin days, Krejci said that Pastrnak, who hopes to become a strong two-way player like Krejci, will become better and better at applying his defensive learnings as he gains experience.
“It’s going to happen that we’re going to get scored on, that’s for sure, but we have to try to minimize the mistakes,” Krejci said. “On the other hand, he knows what to do defensively, but he has just been here a small amount of games and sometimes in a situation, he has to think twice of what do, and in that split second, something can go wrong. It will come with games played and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘I would be absolutely shocked if Milan [Lucic] was traded out of Boston’||01.08.15 at 2:15 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to look back on Wednesday’s Bruins overtime win against the Penguins, a game McGuire called, and also to discuss recent trade rumors with the team. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
There have been a number of rumors circulating with the struggling Bruins, but one player not to expected to be traded according to McGuire is Milan Lucic.
“I would be absolutely shocked if Milan [Lucic] was traded out of Boston — at least for this year. I would be really surprised,” said McGuire. “If you watched my interview with him after the game, that is an invigorated Milan Lucic. I thought after the first period, and even parts of the first period, he made a huge difference in that game. He was skating, he was going to the boards, he was dictating the slot, he was fore-checking with a purpose. He obviously was a very good assist player last night. He made a real good play on the game-winning goal. I would be shocked if he were traded out of Boston, I really would be.”
Earlier in the week, Charlie Jacobs, the new CEO of Delaware North’s Boston Holdings, which runs the Bruins, TD Garden and NESN, fired a warning shot across the organization, saying not making the playoffs wouldn’t be acceptable. The Bruins are currently 20-15-6, and sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
McGuire sensed a team that wasn’t its normal self before the game on Wednesday night, their first since the Jacobs comments, but as the game went along the team got their “swagger” back.
“What was amazing to me was before the game how some of the swagger I am used to seeing the Bruins have, wasn’t there. There just wasn’t that Bruins swagger. Then at the end of the game, that Bruins swagger was back,” McGuire said. “They are not an arrogant, pompous, rude team — there are some teams in the league that are — they’re not. They are a hard-working, industrious and proud group. They have very good internal leadership. It was interesting to see how it changed from before the game to after the game and if you watched my interview with Claude Julien after the second TV timeout in the second period, he basically said, ‘Listen we’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of confidence right now. We’re working to get our confidence back.’ You could see as the game went along they started to get their confidence back.”
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|5 things we learned as Bruins get much-needed win over Penguins to re-enter playoff picture||01.07.15 at 10:54 pm ET|
Milan Lucic chose the right time to have one of his better games of the season.
After turning in a heavy performance with new linemates in regulation, Lucic fired a wrist shot from the top of the zone in overtime that Patrice Bergeron tipped on its way past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Bruins a desperately needed 3-2 victory over the Metropolitan-leading Penguins on Wednesday (click here for boxscore). Lucic finished the game with a pair of assists, both of which came on Bergeron goals.
With the Maple Leafs losing to the Capitals Wednesday night, Boston’s victory put the Bruins into the playoff picture. Now 20-15-6, the B’s are currently in possession of the second wild card spot to sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.
The victory was Boston’s first with a healthy roster this season, as they are now 1-1-3 in games in which they’ve had no players out with injuries.
Tuukka Rask made 37 shots on 39 shots faced. The win technically extended a point-streak to five games for the Bruins, though they’re just 2-0-3 in that span.
Here are four more things we learned Wednesday:
BRUINS MORE NERVOUS THAN DETERMINED
Given how they played Sunday and what Charlie Jacobs said about the team Tuesday, you would think that the Bruins would come out furious each period. Instead, the Bruins came out for the first two periods Wednesday looking just as indifferent as they have all season.
The Penguins carried the pace early in the first period before the B’s found their legs as the frame went on.
Given that the B’s were able to tie the game late in the period on a Zdeno Chara slap shot, you would think they’d come out for the second period riled up. Instead, the Bruins did not attempt a shot until 8:31 into the second.
In the third period, the Bruins landed just one shot on goal in the first 13-plus minutes, though they were at least shooting the puck, which was, horrifyingly, a step in the right direction.
Things like leadership are not quantifiable, but some of the alarmingly poor starts to periods the Bruins have had this season were not regular occurrences in years past.
|Milan Lucic says injury was nagging issue, not suffered in Dalton Prout fight||12.31.14 at 10:58 pm ET|
Milan Lucic said after Wednesday’s shootout loss to the Maple Leafs that the injury that forced him to miss Monday’s game was not suffered in last Saturday’s fight against Dalton Prout.
Lucic, who did not practice Tuesday and sat out Monday returned to his normal spot Wednesday. He said afterwards that he felt “good.”
“The injury wasn’t a result of the fight,” he added. “It was just something nagging that comes up in the middle of the season. Just a day-to-day type of thing. Just smart to sit out a couple days and get the rest. It really helped get me back in the lineup here today.”
Lucic played 18:53 Wednesday, his fifth-highest total of the season. He skated with David Krejci and Seth Griffith, playing a large role in Krejci’s second-period goal by going hard to the net.
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|Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron return to Bruins lineup||at 6:37 pm ET|
The Bruins’ lineup is as follows:
Lucic – Krejci – Griffith
Marchand Bergeron – Smith
Kelly – Soderberg – Eriksson
Cunningham – Campbell – Paille
Chara – Hamilton
Bartkowski – Seidenberg
Krug – Miller
Jordan Caron, Zach Trotman and Matt Linblad are the healthy scratches. Lindblad was the only player missing from warmups.
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