Lucic Looks to Raise the Bar
BostonBruins.com -- Milan Lucic brings a lot to the rink, but it's the unique combination of toughness, tenacity and hockey prowess, which makes the transplant from Vancouver (and his teammates, for that matter) very comfortable in Boston.
"You’re all familiar with Milan and the way he plays," said Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli during Saturday's conference call to discuss Lucic's contract extension. "A real—obviously—solid contributor.
"I call him a kind of signature player—loves to play, loves to be physical, and [he's] a big part of this team."
When Lucic arrived on the scene before the 2007-08 season, Boston's now-signature player joined a team very much intent on returning to the mold of the 1970's "Big Bad Bruins" and had already proclaimed themselves ready to back that up that reputation, not only with their shoulders and fists, but with their ability to play on both sides of the puck.
Lucic—and the core group of players who have grown into a perennial Cup contender, has done just that and have challenged the other members of the Northeast Division (if not the entire Eastern Conference & NHL) to alter their style of play in order to compete with the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion's successful matrix.
"Yeah I mean, obviously teams are definitely beefed up in our division," said Lucic when asked about the newfound fist-flying firepower among members of the old Adams Division. "[They're] probably trying to be more competitive against us in that department.
"Me and [fellow B's pugilist] Shawn [Thornton], we’ve been together for five years now, and we’ve definitely created a real good relationship between the two of us," explained Lucic. "We have a lot of respect for one another."
That respect has taken itself from the rink to the ring, as well.
"I know he does some boxing over the summer and I’ve been working with his guy since I’ve been back for the past month," said Lucic. "But it has nothing to do with the other teams beefing up; it’s just something that the both of us do, part of our training regimen during the summer."
However, Lucic's adjustment to his training is just one example of the left-winger's willingness to go the extra mile to push the boundaries of his personal game as he looks to help the Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston.
"Being a competitor and a player here in the NHL, you always want to push yourself to get better every year," said Lucic when asked what he would like to improve in the coming seasons. "I think the last two years I think I’ve set a much higher standard for myself and, as a competitor you want to keep pushing that standard.
"There’s obviously a lot of sacrifices and a lot of responsibilities that have to be made on and off the ice, and those are things that I have to take upon myself to work on and do my best to get better at.
"I’m definitely more than willing to do that," added Milan. "It’s on me to live up to my expectations.
"It’s up to me to push the bar for myself."
Chiarelli, in concert with Head Coach Claude Julien and his staff, is constantly looking for Bruins players to push their personal envelopes, but more than anything, the GM said he wants his power forward to bring all those tools to bear in a more consistent manner.
"This can apply to any of our players, and they can all attest that they probably heard it from me," said the GM. "Consistency; it’s just something that all players strive to improve.
"Milan’s game is a unique game, and for him to be consistent and at a more consistent pace and level would be even better than what we’re getting right now.
"We all want to be more consistent - including myself," he said.
The same could be said about the Bruins as a whole, and as the Black & Gold look toward the 2012-13 season, Lucic and the B's look to smooth out their path to the playoffs as they prepare for a long campaign.
And for Lucic, Thornton or any of the Bruins who might often be asked to drop the mitts with a willing opponent this season, the consistent key to making it back to the Stanley Cup spotlight might just be to know when to keep the gloves on.
"As a team we always look at no matter what the opponent is, is we want to win the hockey game," said Lucic, who added, "We’re not too worried about the fights."