WILMINGTON, Mass. — While Milan Lucic led the Bruins with 30 goals this season, none of his shots found the back of the net in any of the Bruins’ final 10 games.
However, Bruins head coach Claude Julien isn’t concerned about Lucic’s lull carrying over into the postseason, which starts for Boston Thursday night against Montreal.
“Well I think if I base my judgment on how he’s been in the playoffs for us since he’s gotten here, I think he’ll be ready. I have no doubt that he’ll be a good player for us,” said the coach after putting his team through its first postseason practice at Ristuccia Arena.
The NHL postseason numbers are impressive for Lucic, who is still just 22 years old. After scoring twice in the ’08 seven-game loss to Montreal as a rookie, Lucic has produced eight goals and 10 assists in 23 playoff games the last two springs.
If the Bruins are going to go anywhere, never mind get past the Canadiens, Lucic is going to have to continue to score the way he has in past playoffs and in this year’s regular season. Defenses might be able to key on Lucic’s line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, so the challenge to lead the way could be even stiffer.
“It’s definitely always a challenge, to take your game up and take it to another level and be able to perform in the playoffs and in a playoff series,” said Lucic. “So you can take the pressure anyway you want it. You can let the pressure get the best of your or you can feed off the pressure. And I think for ourselves, especially with the season that we had together, I think we’re looking forward seeing how we can transfer our game and take it over to the playoffs.”
Julien today committed a cardinal sin of comparing Lucic’s ability to raise his game to another level in the postseason to that of former Montreal and New Jersey agitator Claude Lemieux. No doubt, President Cam Neely will have something to say to Julien about that. Nonetheless, the coach’s point was made.
Lucic doesn’t shy away from the fact that he thrives when he’s treated as a villain, which will be his role once again in the hostile environs of Montreal.
“It’s fun. I have a lot of fun in that. It’s what makes this so fun to be a part of,” Lucic said. “For myself, I’ve just got to feed off those types of emotions and feed off the energy and not let it get the best of me. Especially in the playoffs, you’ve got to really take the mindset of you’ve got to make every shift like it’s your last and make sure you’re doing whatever you can to help your team succeed. For myself personally, I’ve always taken that as a challenge and tried to rise up to the occasion.”
Unlike last spring, Lucic is entering the playoffs healthy. He was still battling a nagging high ankle sprain at this time last year, and it showed in his play. He made it through 79 games to set a career-high in 2010-11, an accomplishment he called “a positive thing.”
His season-ending goal drought was certainly a negative thing, but it will be long forgotten if he’s able to again surge to the front of the biggest stage in the sport and be a playoff scoring star.