BOSTON, MA – Milan Lucic may not have found his way onto the score sheet Saturday evening in Game Five versus the Rangers. But the 6-foot-3, imposing forward did undoubtedly have his hand in the result, as the Bruins knocked New York out of the playoffs with a 3-1 win.
Even when Boston trailed on Saturday night, it was clear the charge would be led by the team’s physical play. Lucic was at the forefront, registering a game-high six hits in his 20-plus minutes of ice time.
“When he picks up speed he is hard to stop,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien after Saturday’s game of Lucic. “I thought that Milan’s physical play, and also as you saw a few times in the third period, he just carried that puck and when he does picks up speed he is like a train."
“He is hard to stop and he is heavy.”
After suffering a 4-3 overtime loss in New York days earlier, Lucic said he wanted to have more of an impact in Game Five. On Saturday, he made good on that.
“I wasn’t too happy with how I played in that Game Four,” Lucic said. “It just felt like after the game, I had a lot more to give and I didn’t want to make the same mistake here tonight.
“So, I think as a line we were a lot better and for me I was able to get my feet going more.”
His teammates are noticing his contributions also, even picking up on the effect number 17 is having on the opposition.
“The whole playoffs he’s been playing with a lot of jump,” said Dennis Seidenberg. “He’s skating hard, hitting guys, and guys have a lot of respect for him.
“Sometimes they want to get rid of the puck earlier than they want to when they see him coming, and that’s just what [Lucic] provides when he’s on the ice—the respect level. It’s big for us.”
Lucic, alongside his linemates of David Krejci and Nathan Horton certainly made life more difficult for the Rangers. Only minutes before Boston’s second goal, the trio sustained an extended shift in the New York zone, firing six shots on goal on a single shift.
“I have liked his game since the playoffs have started, and even near the end of the year, you could see him turning the corner,” Julien said. “It has been a tough regular season for him, but what you look at is how you finish and not how you started.
“He as given us the opportunity to look at him as a good player right now, because he is finishing the season really strong.”
"He had some struggles there early, and, really, up until the last little bit," said Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli on Sunday morning, with the B's getting in a rest day.
"But, now he’s sometimes a man among boys the way he’s playing. He’s rolling."
Even though Lucic’s line was unable to break through against New York in Game Five, the tone was set through physicality and forechecking, something the Bruins know will be paramount in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Well, no doubt they’re a great hockey club,” Lucic said of the Penguins. “In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they have.
“What you’re going to probably see going into this next series is two well-rounded teams going at it, and for us we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.”
With Boston now set to face off against the Penguins, with a Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line, the bruising, “hard-to-play-against” Lucic and co. will look to keep playing their brand of hockey at a high level against the top-seeded Pittsburgh.
And with only one series standing between two teams and a trip to the Finals, the Bruins know everything—including the intensity—will be elevated to another level.
“There’s obviously a lot of things that you can point towards that can cause a lot of bad blood between the two teams and I’m sure it’s going to be hard fought, emotional series,” Lucic said. “And like I said, there’s a lot to look forward to.”