Slow. Unenganged. Lost. Overwhelmed. Done. Pick any of those words and apply them to Milan Lucic during the most recent NHL regular season. Not many would argue. The Boston Bruins forward was not playing his best hockey.
Lucic was supposed to be a reincarnation of Bruins legend Cam Neely, the prototypical power forward. He was billed as a bruising winger who was equally capable of dropping the gloves and depositing the puck in the net when Boston drafted him in 2006.
For his first few seasons, Lucic nearly lived up to the hype. He reached 30 goals in his fourth season and won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in his hometown of Vancouver. He consistently put opposing players into the boards and onto the ice and threw fists when necessary, making him a fan favorite.
But during the shortened 2012-13 regular season, the skating slowed. The goals didn't come as often and the physicality was nonexistent at times.
And with that, the 24-year-old was written off by many, with rumored reasons for his lackadaisical play popping up in many circles. He was hiding an injury. He was uninterested. He became hypothetical trade fodder.
Now, it appears the left wing has returned to form. Lucic is back to playing physical, crushing opposing players and causing havoc along the boards and in front of the net.
Boston Bruins fans, please welcome back Milan Lucic.
He's the player many fell in love with during his first few seasons and one of the reasons the Bruins are up 3-0 over the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Lucic is now moving the puck quickly. He's getting back defensively. He's throwing his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame into -- and sometimes nearly though -- opponents.
Just ask New York Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman, who was stapled to the end boards with a thunderous hit in Game 3 Tuesday night, a game in which he racked up five hits. The physicality and speed were apparent there.
And as for his renewed offensive prowess, go back to Game 7 of the opening-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lucic's presence in front of goalie James Reimer was visible all night, and Lucic cashed in on a huge chance late, putting home a rebound to cut Toronto's lead to 4-3.
Everyone knows how that contest turned out.
Lucic is averaging a point per game in the playoffs, potting three goals and dishing out seven helpers in 10 games.
His presence has helped lift the play of linemate David Krejci, who leads the NHL in postseason points and is tied for the lead in assists with 11, and right wing Nathan Horton, who has four goals and five assists.
And even more impressive is Lucic's plus-10 rating through the playoffs, while on the ice for nearly 20 minutes a game. The rugged forward is getting it done in all three zones.
While he's not the only reason the Boston Bruins are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, Lucic's re-emergence as a legitimate power forward has certainly played a big part in the team's success. Bruins fans hope he continues to elevate his play just as he did during the team's last Stanley Cup run.
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