The Bruins (8-5) have lost three of their last four games but Milan Lucic is playing as well as anyone on the team so you can’t blame him for their recent malaise. Heading into Tuesday's (7, NESN) showdown with the Dallas Stars (6-6-2) and former teammates Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, Boston’s burly first line left wing leads the team in goals (6), he is tied for the best shooting percentage (23.1 percent) while he’s second in assists (6) and third in plus/minus (plus-7). Along with center David Krejci (2 goals, 11 assists) and new Bruin Jarome Iginla (3 goals, 6 assists), Lucic is playing on one of the best forward lines in the NHL.
With this solid start to 2013-14, it’s easy to forget how much Lucic struggled last season (7 goals, 20 assists in 46 games) in the lockout-shortened regular season. What we remember better is the way he performed in last season's playoffs (7 goals, 12 assists in 22 games) as the B’s reached the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. It’s hard to say what made Lucic flip the switch last spring, but it was obvious in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, when he almost single-handedly started their improbable comeback, that the old Lucic was back in full effect.
A logical conclusion for this season’s obvious turnaround by Lucic is that he wants to be in Sochi, Russia this February playing for Team Canada. A few years ago, the thought of Lucic playing for the defending Gold medalists would seem unlikely, but now after he was invited to their training camp over the summer, it seems within his reach. Keep in mind that Bruins head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli are both involved with Canada’s national team so if Lucic continues his fine play, you have to assume they’ll put in a good word for him.
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When you talk about Lucic’s overall game, there are always two simple keys to his success: moving his feet and playing smart. If he’s playing poorly, odds are that he looks slow on his skates and is often out of position. Likewise, he has 14 penalty minutes so far this season which is a reasonable total, but you can’t single out too many dumb penalties which are often the result of his physical play that often borders on dirty when he’s frustrated. Maybe with age (25) and experience (this is his seventh year in the NHL), Lucic has finally put it all together to become what we all thought he could be: one of the top power forwards in a league that doesn’t have too many of them anymore.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate