With his game-winning goal in the Bruins' 2-1 victory Thursday night, Milan Lucic now leads the team in game-winners with seven and in goals with a career-high 28. Those numbers combined with his physical presence and skating that has led to the lamplighters has Lucic finally realizing his potential to be a premiere power forward in the NHL.
Veteran Bruins forward Mark Recchi has played against the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Cam Neely and Rick Tocchett, and while the league may not have that exact prototype power forward right now, Lucic is definitely establishing himself as part of the new generation of power forwards. Lucic is physical, he skates hard, he fights and he has both net-front presence and intimidating presence along the boards.
“When he moves his feet with that big body like that, he’s great,” Recchi said of Lucic. “He wants to be a key guy on the team and he’s showing it. He’s learning to compete every night and comes prepared to compete every night and do the right things, [so] good things happen.
“When he has that physical presence, he’s effective, and when he doesn’t play physical, goals don’t seem to come for him. So it comes hand-and-hand and he’s a talented enough player that when he plays that way, good things come for him. He creates room by being physical and he knows that when he’s a presence, he’s going to get those chances.”
Lucic’s goal Thursday was compliments of complete havoc by his linemates in front of Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith and his own finding an open place near the net should the puck pop loose. That’s exactly what happened as one of the referees accidentally kicked the loose puck toward Lucic, who was to the side of the net and buried it from a tough angle with 3:42 left in regulation.
“Initially, I thought when I gave that pass to Horty [Nathan Horton] that he scored, but it popped out there,” Lucic said. “I was just trying to look for the loose puck because there was enough guys in front of the net. I knew there was no real reason for me to get in there but just kind of wait around, see if something popped out, and it did and everyone was on the ice, including their goalie, so I just shot high and hard and it went in.”
Forward Gregory Campbell has enjoyed playing with Lucic -- and not against him -- this season. Campbell also sees Lucic emerging into that rare combination of skill and physical prowess.
“That’s a rare thing when you have a guy that is so physical and so tough but has that finishing touch and the ability to put the puck in the net,” Campbell said. “That’s something that you don’t see often anymore -- the power-forward, prototypical. You saw a lot in the '90s and further back. Those guys are valuable, and he [Lucic] plays a big role for us. The other team has to respect him and respect his skill because he plays hard, and that’s somebody you need in the playoffs -- that plays hard but is a threat to score.”