Last season, the Bruins wanted to beat Montreal in the second round of the playoffs. They wanted to advance to the conference finals. After winning the Presidents’ Trophy, they thought they had what it took to go all the way.
When those dreams were cut short, it was understandably difficult to swallow.
“It was tough because it ended a lot shorter than you had hoped,” said forward Milan Lucic, speaking for the first time this season after the team’s informal skate at Ristuccia Arena on Monday. “You look at a lot of things — up 3-2 in the series, and you hit all those posts in the series, and you lose to a team that we felt like we should have beaten -- but we didn’t.
“It was something that’s always tough to get over, but I guess once you do get over it, you try to use it as motivation to help you work harder to get yourself ready to come back this season hungrier.”
That is where Lucic stands at present. He is hungrier this season. He did use the disappointment that came with last season’s Game 7 ouster as motivation while he trained this offseason — a task that was immeasurably more difficult than usual, given the fact that he required offseason wrist surgery for an injury sustained during the postseason.
The wrist was in a cast for 12 weeks, and though Lucic declined to classify himself as back at 100 percent, he did say that he expects to continue progressing positively throughout training camp, which kicks off later this week.
“It’s getting better,” he said. “I feel like I’ve turned the corner on it the last week, week and a half, so that’s obviously a positive. Still working to get it up to 100 percent and just excited to be back here with everyone and getting things going.”
The bruising winger admitted that when training camp begins, he might not be going full throttle, but for the most part, that is a precautionary decision.
“You don’t want to have any setbacks or anything like that,” he said. “I think the main thing is just to be smart about it. But like I said, it’s turned a corner for the better, as far as the rehab’s gone, and I’m just working on trying to get my strength back in it and everything like that. So like I said, it’s been a good last, I’d say two weeks, and hopefully it can get better and better as the month goes along.”
Lucic said that the wrist injury did impact his offseason training, particularly with his upper body training.
“I hadn’t been able to do a pushup until a week ago, just because of it being right there on the joint,” he said with a laugh. “Still, that’s something you got to work at with rehab and stuff like that. Like I said, it’s gotten better over the last week, and you still have some time here before the season starts. So as camp goes along, you want to get your legs and everything underneath you, but you still have time to build your strength up till the season starts.”
Lucic has been a regular presence at captains’ practices for over a week. When he first returned to Boston, he spent a couple of days skating by himself before the rest of his teammates hit the ice, but last week, he joined them. He, like everyone else, is excited for camp to begin, partly because it gives him and his teammates the opportunity to put last year’s disappointment firmly in the rearview mirror and start all over again.
“We still have somewhat of a similar group here, as far as that goes, and we all still have a lot of confidence and believe in ourselves that we’re a great team,” he said. “We just got to go out there and prove it at the start of the season.”
During the summer, the Bruins roster has undergone some changes. For one, Lucic’s longtime linemate, David Krejci, inked a six-year, $43.5 million extension. Last season, he and Lucic served as one of Boston’s most consistent, most dominant lines, and Lucic finished 2013-14 with 24 goals and 35 assists for 59 points in 80 games.
Of course, more changes could be coming as far as this roster is concerned, and Lucic is well aware of that. That, he said, is simply the reality of the salary cap era.
“It does impact a team because you know that some kind of movement is going to happen, and like I said, we have a good group of guys here that we believe in,” he said. “Everyone believes in themselves and each other, and to lose someone just to make room is not the situation that you want to see, but that’s the nature of the salary cap era. Unfortunately, that’s something that has to happen.
“For myself personally, I’m more worried about getting my rehab all done more than that kind of stuff, but it’s definitely something you don’t want to hear. But like I said, at the end of the day, it is a business, and things like that happen.”
Like many of his teammates, Lucic chooses to let those issues play out, and he will focus on what he can control: continuing his rehabilitation in the hopes of starting off 2014-15 with a bang.
“Every time you have surgery, it never really goes back to 100 percent, right? But you hope that you get back to a point where you were feeling as good as before the surgery,” he said. “For myself, just trying to get mentally healthy, get it out of the way. The mental part of it — that part is also a big part to overcome, as far as shooting and just pushing and all that type of stuff.
“But it’s a lot of hard work, when you get injured, to rehab yourself and to get to 100 percent, and that’s your main goal, is to try to get there.”