We’re certainly not breaking any new Bruin ground here to suggest there’s a link between legendary Boston banger Cam Neely and current crasher Milan Lucic.
In fact, we’d love nothing more than to write a blog about Lucic without mentioning Neely, just for the sake of doing something they’re both familiar with, namely mixing it up.
But after a brief chat with Lucic last weekend, we couldn’t help but play a little game of connect the comments. Here’s what Lucic had to say about the success of his line, which features him on the left wing alongside center David Krejci and right winger Nathan Horton.
“The main thing is we’re just making good, hard plays,” he said. “We’re not trying to be too fancy. We’re getting a lot of speed through the neutral zone and we’re making teams pay for that. If we want to keep being successful that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
In the off-season, THN.com spoke with Neely, team president in Boston, about what the young man many see in his own mold needs to do in order to cajole the most from his physical gifts. See if you can spot some similarities.
“If he just focuses on his own skill set - which is up and down his wing, getting pucks out, getting pucks in, playing physical, driving to the net - everything else kind of follows from that,” Neely said. “When he gets thinking about doing too much out there, that’s when he gets himself into trouble. He’s just got to remember his skill set is different than a lot of other players in the league. It’s just not as flashy as some other players, but it certainly creates some room and opportunities for himself and his linemates.
“For Milan, when he thinks about what he has to do to be successful and he does those things, he will be a successful hockey player.”
He has certainly been that, and then some, this season. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, there’s never been any doubt Lucic had the ability to impact a hockey game. The question was always to what degree would he be able to develop offensively? Right now he leads the B’s in scoring with 23 points in 26 games. His 13 goals - already just four short of his career best - put him on pace for 41. Even if he ends up netting 30 to 35, when you toss in his size and surliness, that’s a top-line threat few in the league can match.
Lucic, at age 22, is already a fourth-year NHLer. He missed 15 games combined over his first two seasons, before sitting out 32 last year with a broken finger and an ankle injury. So far, so good on the health front this season, which has helped contribute to Lucic’s current state of mind.
“Much better, more comfortable, playing with confidence,” he said. “It’s never fun being injured, so it was definitely an experience going through that last year, but I felt it made me stronger as a player and a person.”
Lucic isn’t getting ahead of himself in terms of projecting where his season totals or career path is headed, but with a few seasons under his belt and a chance to show his stuff on the top line, we’re all finding out exactly what this guy can do. If simplifying things is key to Lucic’s success, it’s appropriate to sign off with an understatement from him about his present situation:
“It’s an opportunity for me with the position the coaching staff and management has put me in here in Boston and so far I’ve dealt with it pretty well.”
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