When the 2012 Playoffs ended on April 15th, who did everyone point the “ghost” finger at? Who was the one that “needed to be traded stat”? Who was the one who wasn’t pulling his weight? It was Milan Lucic.
Fast forward to end of the Toronto Maple Leaf series in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, who factored in on the 3 goals near the end of Game 7 that tied it all? Who opened the scoring in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with 2 goals? Milan Lucic.
Milan Lucic was a huge factor in bringing the Bruins back from 4-1 in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian Engblom during Game 7 had commented on how Milan Lucic was being very vocal on the bench and rallying his team. Moments later during his shift he fed the puck to Nathan Horton from behind the net and Horton would score, cutting the deficit to 2 goals. 9 minutes later, Zdeno Chara would lay a huge slapshot on the left pad of Leafs goaltender James Reimer and Lucic standing in front of the net knocked the rebound in to make it 4-3 and could be seen telling his teammates to pick up it and generally rallying them. With an empty net and a trio of Jagr – Bergeron – Krejci standing at the blue line, Lucic made a huge hit along behind the net and got the puck up to Jaromir Jagr who passed it to Bergeron who passed it to Krejci and then back to Bergeron.. then the game was tied 4-4.
Milan Lucic’s 2013 post-season was a major improvement from 2012 obviously. But that’s not the main focus, we know Lucic can preform well in the playoffs. This is his second Stanley Cup Finals appearance and was a huge force in both playoff runs. When Andrew Ference was left to walk to free agency, he surrendered his Alternate Captaincy leaving an empty slot between Bergeron and Chris Kelly. Milan Lucic’s vocal leadership through out the 2013 Playoffs and especially the undeniable fact that if it wasn’t for him the Bruins would have lost Game 7 against the Leafs. He improved 2 points on his 2011 performance and 16 on the 2012 playoffs. He left a mark on the Leafs in more ways then one, as well as the Blackhawks. He had Niklas Hjalmarsson running away from him when Lucic was coming down on him in the corners during the Stanley Cup Finals. Lucic also finished a +12 at the end of the playoffs despite losing the ultimate prize. He also remained disciplined posting 14 PIM (tied with David Krejci and Nathan Horton in PIM), and he was among the Top 3 in +/- during the playoffs behind his line-mates Krejci and Horton.
Lucic has been with the team since 2007-08, not that impressive considering how long guys like Jarome Iginla, Dennis Seidenberg and Shawn Thornton have been in the league and they are all worthy candidates for the now vacant third alternate captain spot. But Lucic has been one of the longest tenured Bruins draft picks next to Bergeron and Krejci, and with Bergeron already having the A and soon the C pretty much locked down, people are gonna turn to Lucic to be the new Top 6 bearer of the A, especially when Bergeron transitions to the C when Chara eventually retires. That’s also not to say Krejci isn’t worthy to get it either, he’s been a consistent playoff force and Conn Smythe finalist twice. But performance isn’t what someone should base the leadership ranks on. The best example against that is Joe Thornton‘s tenure as captain here in Boston.. how many playoff series wins did he captain the Bruins too? Oh yeah that’s right.. none.
Lucic would benefit from the responsibility and leadership role and it may be the little extra kick he needs to keep his head in the game at all times. But with so many veterans battling for the spot, only time will tell before we see who inherits the “A” patch for the 2013-14 season and possibly beyond.