– Following Thursday’s morning skate prior to facing the Florida Panthers, B’s Head Coach Claude Julien talked about what it will take for his top line to get back to the scoring pace they were at early in the season.
The line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton has struggled to find the back of the net collectively as of late. Lucic has gone nine straight games without a goal, his last coming against the Panthers in Florida on February 24. Krejci has netted two goals over that same stretch, while Horton has been scoreless in the last seven games.
Julien wants the line, namely Horton and Lucic, to find a way to get back to playing their end-to-end style of game that allows them to use their big bodies and be physical while getting in quick on the forecheck.
“I think they’ve got to get back to their North-South game,” explained Julien, when asked what will get the line going again. “I don’t think there’s a single team in the league that likes to see Lucic forechecking or going after a loose puck. Same thing with Nathan Horton. When he’s on his game, and he’s committed to it, he’s another real physical player that can forecheck and put players on their heels.
“Those guys are better served when they play that way, and what that does is, it eventually backs guys off. When they back guys off, then they’re capable of making plays like they had been just inside the blue line. Right now, it doesn’t seem to be the intention of putting pucks in areas where those guys can use that to their advantage. They’re forcing plays a little too much in the neutral zone, which ends up being turnovers and not utilizing their strengths to their advantage.”
Late last week, Lucic nearly mimicked exactly what Julien said today about his line needing to play more of that brand of hockey.
“I think we’re most successful when we’re playing North-South hockey,” Lucic said, following practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington Friday afternoon. “We’re just moving the puck up, moving our feet, and kind of playing that power game and taking it to the net.
“[It] can’t be any different moving forward. But like I said, there’s times where we have opportunities to be creative, we definitely have the ability to do that. When we do, we’ve got to make sure we get the job done and it doesn’t end up in our net.”
Over the past five games – since he had a four-shot output against Montreal – Lucic has registered three shots on goal. Julien said the slow down in the number of shots Lucic has taken lately is a direct correlation to the line not playing their style of game.
“I think it’s because they keep turning pucks over at the blueline and they’re not putting pucks in and making those things happen,” said the B’s bench boss. “Whenever they play North-South, they even make plays to the outside to use their speed to get to the net. A lot of it is attributed to that, I think.”
The trio had such an explosion at the start of the season, that, like the B's needing to get their Boston Bruins brand of defense back on track after their two-loss skid last week, it would be hard-pressed to believe that they can't find a way back to establishing their line's identity.