BOSTON — Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien has stressed time and again that the line switches he made prior to Tuesday night’s game were not to single any one player out but to shake up all six skaters.
But a glance at the stats sheet easily revealed that the one third of the Bruins top line that wasn’t producing was left winger Milan Lucic. Lucic failed to fire a shot on net in Carolina and Atlanta, and including his switch to the line centered by Stephane Yelle and completed by Chuck Kobasew Tuesday, he entered tonight’s game with just one goal in his last eight.
In a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh at TD Banknorth Garden tonight — the Bruins’ 10th straight win — Lucic potted the game-winner by burying a loose puck that bounced off Yelle a little past the midway point of the second period. The goal was a result of that trio doing what it does best, and that’s using its strength and grit.
“Chuck did a great job carrying down the wall, and Yeller did a great job driving to the net. I just tried to beat my man up ice and it was a good bounce and it went in,” said Lucic.
Julien gave a lot of credit to Yelle as well.
“The big key there, I thought, was the fact that Yeller drove the net,” he said. “And what he did is he created some confusion for their D’s and Lucic came in the slot area and picked up that loose puck. There’s a lot of good things that happened there, but I think a lot of credit goes to Stephane Yelle for driving the net. We keep talking about that – you’re going to back some D’s up, you’re going to create some confusion and he did a great job of that and allowed Looch some room to shoot that puck with, obviously, a screen.”
Lucic said that switching linemates from perennial playmakers Marc Savard and Phil Kessel to Yelle and Kobasew hasn’t caused him to change his game. But he admitted the maneuvers made him reflect on how he’d been performing.
“I think things obviously weren’t going my way. And I just wanted to get back doing simple things. It paid off today with the goal. Like I said, we’ve just got to keep getting better,” Lucic explained.
When it comes to line changes (and goaltender decisions, for that matter) Julien has had the Midas touch. Whether it’s moving Marco Sturm or Michael Ryder to lines centered by David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, or his latest shuffle, the players who get moved seem to always respond.
“I think everyone’s comfortable playing with anyone, so I think we’re just going out there focusing on what we’ve got to do and that’s sticking to the game plan,” said Lucic. “And I think it’s not by accident why we’ve won 10 straight. I think it goes back to the little things that we’re doing. I think maybe we got away from it a little bit but I think this home-and-home with the Penguins was good for us working hard and getting back to doing those little things.”