Milan Lucic has lost Game 7’s before in his time in Boston. The winner-take-all showdowns left the Bruins with nothing in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012, some arguably in more tragic fashion than what took place at the Garden on Wednesday night.
The chief difference among many, of course, was that this latest bout came against the hated Canadiens (as did the 2008 disappointment), who said they rallied around a feeling of disrespect to win the series’ final two games in resounding fashion.
It wasn’t the time. It wasn’t the place. The biceps-flexing moments were over.
If you’re new to following hockey, the handshake line is a time-honored tradition that predates the NHL. After anywhere from four-to-seven passionate, hard-fought, bloody battles filled with hate, disgust, and detest, there is always one constant in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
That handshake line.
For a few minutes, players and coaching staffs from both teams are responsible for parting the series with one another in a respectful manner. Do players on opposite sides always congratulate the other or wish them well going forward? Don’t bet on it. For some, it’s an uneasy obligation that may be observed in silence.
But, no matter how personal or grueling the series, or how hated the sweater on the other side, you don’t disrespect the handshake line.
That’s exactly what Lucic did when aggressively shaking the hands of Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin, clearly barking words not friendly for this column in their direction. Reportedly, “I’m going to [expletive] kill you next year.”
To Lucic’s credit, at least he took part in the line – something Chris Chelios didn’t do as a member of the Red Wings in 2007 after a conference finals loss to the Ducks. He apologized the next day for his lack of sportsmanship and called it “a very good tradition” and “something that kids should learn.”
Lucic’s antics were more akin to when Martin Brodeur and Sean Avery (rivals to this day, though Avery is long out of the league) refused to shake hands the following year, something done about a decade earlier when Kris Draper and Claude Lemeieux chose not to exchange pleasantries.
However, Lucic’s message was anything but pleasant.
Losing hurts, more than any of us can relate to while watching from the stands or press box. But, win or lose, that doesn’t ignore right and wrong.
The talented young Bruin was wrong in taking out his frustration on Weise and Emelin, largely because he was probably projecting a good chunk of his irritation with himself after a terrible series in which he missed several open nets, chances around the crease, and scored only one goal – into an empty-net. He also finished with 12 shots (only six in the final four games and none in Game 7), two assists, and an even plus-minus.
The series is over. Lucic will get back to his family, golf, vacation, and whatever else before training later in the offseason, while the Canadiens prepare for another intense best-of-seven with the Rangers.
No matter who wins, that series and the Cup Final thereafter will be followed by handshakes, not threats.
Hopefully, if Lucic had it to do again differently, the normally even-keel forward would, rather than exploding and then accusing Weise of being a baby for saying something he believe should have remained in the line. All he can do now, though, is apologize for his error in judgment.
Or he'll be known as another guy who disrespected arguably the greatest tradition in all of sports.
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