There were times two years ago that we thought nothing would stop Milan Lucic from becoming a dominant power forward and ascending to elite all-around status in the NHL.
This season, we found what it would take to slow Lucic — injuries. The bulky left winger was barely getting his legs back after returning from a broken finger in November when he suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain, which has been the bane of many a hockey player at every level for decades.
After he finally got back in the lineup in early January, he wasn’t ever his game-changing self, and only looked vaguely like a dominant player in spurts down the stretch and in the playoffs. This season turned out to be as much of a mental test as a physical one for Lucic, who hopefully will be able to build off what he learned about playing through ailments and trying to find ways to contribute when things aren’t going right.
Stats: 50 GP, 9-11-20, 44 PIM, minus-7
Season highlight: No one could’ve predicted the cruel fate that waited ahead for the Bruins on the night of May 3, when Lucic’s goal from near the high slot after a spin gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead with 2:57 to go in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia. Boston hung on for the win, of course, en route to an ill-fated 3-0 series lead.
Season low-light: Just four games into his return from a broken finger, Lucic suffered a high ankle sprain in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild in a collision with Marek Zidlicky Nov. 25. Talk about ruining Thanksgiving for Lucic and the Bruins. Lucic went on to miss the Winter Classic and didn’t get back in the lineup until Jan. 7 (coincidentally the night Marc Savard suffered a knee injury).
Final grade: B
It’s really difficult to grade a player that was barely healthy, especially a guy that relies so much on physicality. That Lucic re-aggravated his injury against Buffalo but toughed it out and nearly beat the Flyers by himself in Game 7 is reason to give him a solid grade and a sign that the future is still bright for him.
The crystal ball says … after a summer of resting his injuries and then re-dedicating himself to his offseason regimen, Lucic comes back ready to be a fixture in the Bruins’ top six and a potential All-Star in Carolina at midseason.