Milan Lucic needs to extend game

BOSTON -- For the second straight year, Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic followed up a productive regular season with a lackluster postseason.

Last season, the fall-off was easily overlooked as the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972. But this season, following Boston's first-round ouster by the Washington Capitals, Lucic finds himself in the line of fire from fans and media alike.

Before Lucic packed his bags and headed off into an unwanted early summer, he too wondered why he can't seem to carry over the complete game he plays throughout the regular season into the playoffs.

"I don't know. Maybe I'm putting too much pressure on myself or something like that," Lucic said. "I'm definitely not happy with the way I played in the playoffs, but I have to figure that out.

"I definitely have a lot of time to think about it in the summer. I'll think about it and figure it out and get back to being that playoff player that I used to be."

When Lucic is at his best, he skates hard and plays a north-south game with his size creating time and space for himself and his teammates. When Lucic does that, there aren't many players in the league who can slow him down and prevent the 6-foot-4, 220-pound winger from getting where he needs to be.

Lucic said he thinks he played that game enough during the regular season and in his eyes had a better season than last. But he needs to figure out how to be more effective in the postseason.

"I felt like I had a better season this year than I did last year," said Lucic, who had 26 goals and 61 points this season after posting 30 goals and 62 points in 2010-11. "But it's disappointing the way the playoffs went, and that's the one thing that will stick with me more than anything.

"In the season, I felt like I played more of that north-south type of game and that power game. I tied my career high in penalty minutes and was more in the face of the opponent. That was there in the season more than last year, but I need to spend the summer thinking about how to get that playoff game back."

Since entering the league in the 2007-08 season, Lucic has been compared to Bruins legend -- and team president -- Cam Neely. The bruising Lucic, who like Neely hails from the greater Vancouver area, plays the same style as Neely did, using his skill, grit and size to overpower opponents. With a Bruins fan base longing for another player like the revered the Hall of Famer, Lucic became an instant fan favorite.

But so far Lucic hasn't found a way to be the postseason force that Neely was. Neely had 57 goals and 89 points in 93 career playoff games; Lucic, after registering 12 points in 25 playoff games during last year's Cup run, was limited to three assists in seven games this postseason.

Lucic was asked whether the lofty expectations and comparisons to Neely have weighed on him and become a distraction over the years.

"I've tried to do whatever I can to be my own player and play the way I play," Lucic said. "Obviously the comparisons are there, and you take it for what it's worth.

"I take it as a huge compliment to be compared to someone like that, but that's one thing that Cam has had a talk with me about before, and that's to go out and be yourself and play like yourself or don't try and be something you're not."

Still, Lucic is well aware he hasn't been something he, his teammates and Bruins fans believe he can be: a top-notch playoff performer. He got a taste of how great it is to win the Stanley Cup last year, and this summer he wants to focus on helping his team experience that magic again.

"It makes you appreciate more and more what happened here last year as a team," Lucic said. "For myself personally it already has that fire burning inside, and that you're not happy with what happened and you're not happy with yourself.

"You want to do whatever you can to get yourself and your team to the top, and sometimes you need to lose before you win again. We had to learn the hard way in the past about losing before we were champions.

"This is another case where it's a tough loss, a big loss, and hopefully that will get us fired up to bring us back up to the top."