The Cult of Lucic
The Lucic Revival of Boston Bruins Hockey
The hearts of long-standing Boston Bruins fans have been broken throughout the present post season over the performance of former golden boy Milan Lucic. For those just tuning in, Milan Lucic brought life to the the Boston Bruins. It was only 2 years ago that Lucic arrived on the scene with his “board-rattling and glass-shattering hits and bare-knuckle beatdowns. The response elicited by that style of play shocked even Lucic.” (August 2009) Suddenly, “Boston was a hockey town again.” It’s only since Lucic’s arrival on the scene that Boston started to hear this phrase again after a drought that started after the departure of ‘Bam Neely’–the goal-scoring destroyer who originally inspired the term “power forward.”
Lucic, along with popular tough guy Shawn Thornton and imposing captain Zdeno Chara, struck a chord with fans longing for the days of the Big, Bad Bruins and Don Cherry’s “Lunchpail Gang.” (August 2009)
Coach Claude Julien took a chance on Milan Lucic, who couldn’t even manage to get on a roster that would allow him to be seen by scouts. This was perhaps the most impressive decision Julien ever made. Despite Lucic’s sluggish skating ability and seemingly clumsy style, Julien hunted him down, decided he would teach the kid to skate and capitalized on his physical presence. Boy did this pay off for the Bruins in the following 2 playoff seasons, in which Lucic became the talk of the town and the most hated player amongst oopponents–hands down. No one on the team cared whether Looch ever scored a goal. His mere presence was enough to create the kind of momentum that would bring the Bruins a 4-0 sweep in the playoffs against their long-time rivals, the favored Habs, and a 6-game win against Ryan Miller in 2010. They finished second that year in the goals against category, second only to Vancouver, and finished first the year before. To say that Lucic played a big role in this area would be a wild understatement. Getting past the bulldozer, big Z by his side, was a feat every team dreaded. These were the Big Bad Bruins.
For those of us who experienced the transition of this team through the cult of Lucic, the golden boy’s current performance is not just disappointing, it is a disaster. In the last playoff season, Lucic averaged one minute of PP time on ice per game and had 2 PP goals in 13 games. He also administered 46 hits and did wonders for the momentum of the game. The same goes for the previous playoff year in which he played 10 games. He didn’t score in his 42 seconds of PP time per game that year but had a total of ZERO giveaways and administered 37 hits. The momentum he added to the game is not something you’re going to read off his numbers, however, and this constitutes the biggest hit of all to this team.
This playoff season, Lucic has accumulated 16 giveaways in 15 games and only 6 takeaways. Number of hits: 36. He had more hits in 10 games in 2009, but more importantly, the nature of those hits are far from awe-inspiring and they don’t belong in the same category. He’s a shadow of himself on many levels.
Yet we cannot lay blame upon the man himself as though he refuses to be better. There is no doubt that he wants to be better.
The present puzzle isn’t going to be solved by reminiscing and rewarding Lucic with PP minutes for his performance in previous years. His time on ice must be reduced. He is almost single-handedly neutralizing the first line.
If he cannot be moved to another line on pain of disrupting the team, then he must at the very least be removed from the PP. He isn’t earning it. There is no conceivable justification for having him on the ice 5 on 4.
Milan Lucic was not the sole reason why the Bruins gave up a 3-goal lead in Game 4 against Tampa, but consider this. He is a very significant factor in the first line equation, he is currently dulling the PP and he assisted Tampa’s winning goal. Had the Bruins scored one PP goal in Game 4, they might have won that game despite their other blunders. Similarly, had the first line produced just one 5-on-5 goal, The Bruins might very well have won that game.
This is not the time to accuse Milan Lucic of bringing down the team, but it might just be the time to point the finger at Claude Julien for his first line and PP choices. Let him off the hook for not calling a time-out in the 2nd period and focus on the real issues (in any case, Tampa didn’t score again after the 3rd goal in the second period, so a time-out at the time would likely not have prevented further damage). Let Julien off the hook for choosing to play his defensive system that led to a breakthrough in finding a way across Montreal’s trap, and in neutralizing Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier in a Game 3 shut-out.
Do not let Julien off the hook, however, for his PP and offensive line choices in the present playoff round, which has caused even atheists to turn to prayer after witnessing the tragedy that was Game 4. Do not let Julien off the hook for seeing to it that the only Bruins forward with more PP time logged is David Krejci. This is inexcusable and there is no jusitification for Lucic’s presence on the PP. That feeling of dread we experience when a Bruins PP is forthcoming, for some of us, has turned into a dread of seeing the number 17.
Make no mistake. We love our golden boy. We still belong to the cult of Lucic because we know just how big and bad he can be. But we’re facing a rival cult right now, and that’s the cult of Boucher, whose team is happy to sacrifice it all–even in the face of a 105.9mph slapshot. And let’s be honest: Many of you didn’t think the Bruins could make it this far. But they have, and it’s no longer enough to have knocked off the 2 greatest rivals in recent history. It’s time to show Boucher and his disciples what this team can do.
We all want Lucic back but removing him from the front lines isn’t treason. The focus must be on winning and yesteryear won’t matter Wednesday as our Bruins play the most difficult game of the post-season to date.
Posted on May 23, 2011, in Analysis, Analysis by BruinsUnite, Boston Bruins News, Bruin History, Bruins Analysis, Milan Lucic, Player Analysis, Players, Playoffs, Statistics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.