Off Day Notebook: Lucic, Power Play Emerge in Playoffs
BostonBruins.com - With the Bruins staying off the ice Monday for another day of rest, Head Coach Claude Julien spoke with media at TD Garden about a variety of topics, ranging from the importance of rest, match-ups against Pittsburgh, Andrew Ference's recovery, the snake-bitten Jaromir Jagr and third line, and how depth will be paramount to moving forward in the playoffs.
All of these topics are being covered on this site now, and in the coming days. But two areas that caught my attention were two aspects of the Bruins' game that have played a key role in this postseason - and that weren't strengths during the regular season like they are now.
Lucic Found His A-Game
So, what exactly was it that got Milan Lucic going, after his regular season wasn't trending in the right direction? He's been monstrous this postseason, putting up 55 hits, along with his 10 points (three goals, seven assists), and a plus-9 rating. His hits total puts him currently fourth in the league, but leaders Ryan Callahan and Chris Neil are now both out of the playoffs, putting Dustin Brown just one hit above Lucic, with 56 recorded hits.
The look on the power forward's face after his extra-attacker goal in Game Seven against Toronto that brought the B's within one of their historic comeback, said it all. The "mean Lucic" was in full force.
He, along with his linemates Nathan Horton and David Krejci, were huge for the Bruins in the first round, accounting for 29 of the B's points (11 goals, 18 assists) in the seven-game series. And though they weren't on the scoresheet in the second round as the first (they put up 10 points, contributing two goals), they're "heavy" play caused headaches for the New York Rangers.
The trio also leads the NHL postseason in plus-minus rating. Krejci is a plus-14, with Horton and Lucic tied in slot No. 2 with plus-9.
"f I knew, I would’ve done it a long time ago," smiled Julien, on what sparked Lucic. "I think if you ask him, he’ll tell you a lot of it is from him. At one point you’ve got to look at yourself and look at what you’re bringing to the team versus what you know you can. He just took it upon himself."
"We tried to get him going. We did some different things and eventually had to scratch him for a game, which is the last thing you want to do as a coach with a player like that. From that moment on, he just kind of took charge. The credit goes to him for doing what he’s done so far."
"You hope that he hangs onto that because the impact that he has on that team is invaluable. His physicality, his strength when he brings pucks to the net, when he gets his skating going he’s a hard guy to stop. He brings a lot to the table. In order for teams to have success and have a chance at winning Cups, you need players like that to be at their best."
Power Play Revelation
The Bruins' power play, once an oft-critiqued aspect of their game, is 7-for-32 this postseason, with three of those tallies coming from defenseman Torey Krug. The B's man-advantage ranks fifth in the NHL (21.9-percent) and first on the road (4-for-14, 28.6-percent). It's ranked higher than their penalty kill, which has shown its own prowess before, especially in the regular season.
"When you look at the different things, we talk about [Torey] Krug on the back end, and you look at Jags [Jaromir Jagr], who all of the sudden is on the power play. And again, you see the minute he has the puck everybody wants to take it away from him. They don’t want to give him time," said Julien.
"We’ve added some elements to our power play that have really helped us out. Puck movement has gotten a little bit better. You look at the guys that have scored goals and the guys that have made things happen, there’s improvement there but there’s also been improvement in the players that we’ve gotten to help that."
"I think, obviously, our power play is a lot better and is making a difference," Bruins' General Manager Peter Chiarelli said Sunday morning, during his own media availability, on the B's off day.
"I think that’s probably due to a number things, but I think the additions of Krug and Jagr have helped that power play, just giving it different looks and different types of puck movement, so to speak. Jags on the half-wall and Torey on the blueline. It’s loosened us up, it’s loosened our guys up. We’re moving a lot better."