Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic is certainly a man of his word.
When his rookie season concluded, Lucic said his goal over the summer was to improve enough that he could return for the 2008-09 season as a fixture among the Bruins’ top six forwards. Well, except for a few short stints on the club’s fourth line, Lucic spent this season banging bodies and creating room for some of his most-skilled teammates on one of Boston’s top two lines. And he wasn’t just a physical presence on those lines, as Lucic displayed improved hands and offensive dexterity throughout his impressive sophomore season.
Stats: 72 GP, 17-25-42, 136 PIM, plus-17 regular season; 10 GP, 3-6-9, 31 PIM, plus-12 playoffs.
Contract status: Signed through 2009-10 season at an $850,000 cap hit.
Season highlight: Lucic has developed his game well beyond being just a fighter. In a season that featured his first NHL hat trick and an eight-game points streak, however, Lucic still made his biggest statement early in the season with a beatdown of Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek. The Bruins had built a 5-1 lead on the Canadiens, on their way to a 6-1 win, Nov. 13. Boston hadn’t beaten Montreal in the regular season since 2007 and the Habs had been having their way with Boston hockey-wise and in the physicality department. Finally, Lucic had enough and pounded Komisarek into submission at center ice — much to the glee of the Garden faithful. The Bruins turned the tables on the Habs the rest of the season.
Season low light: The Bruins’ 1-0 loss to Minnesota Jan. 6 was a low light not just because of the final score but also because Lucic suffered an injury sometime during the contest. He missed eight of the next 13 games and wasn’t really himself again physically until he broke out with a two-goal game against San Jose Feb. 10.
In summation … the Cam Neely comparisons are still premature, but Lucic proved he could develop all areas of his game to become more of an all-around force.
Grade: A-minus. Still young at just 20, Lucic is still trying to find his consistency and needs to fight the urge to get too cute with the puck when skating on a top line.But when it comes to big goals and momentum-changing hits, few players delivered as much as Lucic.
The crystal ball says … possibly the Bruins’ most popular player, Lucic will be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come and could become a consistent 25-goal-a-year scorer.