|Don’t mess with the Looch||10.02.08 at 10:02 am ET|
Milan Lucic quickly became a bone-shattering, haymaker-throwing fan favorite in his first season donning the Spoked B sweater as a 19-year-old rookie. But the puck pugilist left Boston last April hungry for greater personal and team success before heading back to the welcoming embrace of the Great White North of Vancouver for a summer of relaxation and off-season off-ice workouts.
While the hulking 6-foot-4, 220-pounder heads into his second NHL season expected to again project a looming physical presence and act as a battering ram on skates also capable of dropping the gloves when the situation dictates, Lucic spent the summer working on diversifying his game. He’s already shown a pretty good, soft pair of hands for a big guy and enough offensive instincts to register as a threat with the puck.
The big winger is hoping to reach somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 goals as his offensive puck game continues to mature and improve along with the rest of his Bruins teammates. There’s no identity crisis brewing with the 20-year-old big B’s lug, however. Looch fully understands that much of his on-ice demeanor should be like something out of the pages of an Incredible Hulk comic book: Lucic mad! Lucic Smash!
“I’ve got to stick to what I do best and that’s really straight-line hockey. There’s no reason to take the physicality out of my game at all because I’m more successful when I’m physical and creating momentum,” said Lucic, who finished second on the team with 89 penalty minutes last season. “You’ve got to keep the [fighting] in your game because you want to be that physical presence on the ice and you want to have an impact on the game.”
But the young left winger also knows that he flashed glimmers of offensive skill while putting up 9 goals and 18 helpers in 77 games. More will be expected of him — along with a bevy of his fellow young Bruins teammates — in Bruins Season 2.0, and Lucic targeted a few specific areas of offseason improvement with that in mind. With more shifts skating alongside offensive-minded linemates and a large helping of PP time, the big man’s point totals should rise right along with his PIMs.
With all that swirling around in his mind, Lucic recognized that his initial burst of skating speed wasn’t up to NHL snuff and is an area that could and should be improved. Big Looch was perfectly fine once he got those pistons firing in his skating legs and was churning at maximum power, but he felt like the explosive first step was missing.
“You know more of what to expect [coming into this season], but because I’m a young guy I’m still learning. In that sense, I think speed-wise I could have a quicker first step,” said Lucic. “Once I get going then I’m there but I really felt that first step was something I needed to work on.
“I feel like it’s there, but we’ll see where I’m at when the games really start. Hopefully I keep getting the minutes that I was getting last year. You do a lot of plyometrics and quick-feet stuff with the ladder and also explosive sprinting. I was doing parachute-work as well and going 40-meter sprints, 30-meter sprints, 20-meter sprints, 50-meter sprints with the parachute and then you rip the parachute off.”
Where did Lucic get the idea to use parachutes and other track-and-field style techniques to make himself a better hockey player, you ask?
Enter Ian Gallagher, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Vancouver Giants. Gallagher has worked with Lucic from the time he was barely old enough to drive, and both coach and player tailored his off-season workouts around track exercises designed to improve his explosion and fast-twitch muscles. It was an easy assignment for Gallagher, who works with a large group of hockey players in the summer and always looks forward to his time with the blue collar kid from Vancouver.
Part of Gallagher’s joy comes from the tireless work ethic that Lucic lugs to the table with him, and the other huge part is some of the amazing feats of strength that the physical specimen puts on in the weight room. The legend started when Lucic was playing Junior Hockey in Canada for the Giants and it continued on into his first season with the Bruins.
“He certainly did a lot of his power speed-work and he’s getting older now…so his game is coming along appropriately fast. The first step is all about power that allows you to go from a stationary position to full exertion very quickly. So plyometrics are a big staple of his program and power cleaning is a big staple of his program. Change of direction is big with a lot of diagonal sprints where they’re stopping and going quickly.
“There was steady growth for Milan over the summer. He’s got great genetics and he’s a very committed person. He came back very motivated and very willing to improve, and his scores improved over the summer as you expect somebody would that’s got the proper motivation. Nothing surprises me with Milan though because he’s got a real disposition for growth.”
So just how eye-popping are the genetics of the tall and strapping winger, who defied the odds to crack the Bruins NHL roster as a 19-year-old last season and truly created an impact in Boston’s comeback campaign last year?
“He’s got a great frame to put on muscle mass and handle it. He’s got great levers and he’s got a very strong core and a good musculature to him that allows to excel,” said Gallagher. “His leg mass is tremendous. His leg press is well over 900 pounds for eight reps and his power clean for reps is 275 pounds, which are both really football player-like numbers.
“Which is a little amazing because he’s got a very unassuming musculature to him. Because you look at his arms and there’s not a heck of a lot of mass to them, but his core is just so bloody powerful. His legs are massive and his trunk is massive, and when he gets those big muscles going it demonstrates itself in a powerful way when he collides with somebody or when he’s shooting the puck. I think it’s one of his biggest assets.”
Those assets haven’t worked up to full-speed yet this preseason, but it’s only a matter of time before the 20-year-old turns those physical attributes into points and PIMs for the B’s this season.