If the 2009 Stanley Cup finals had ended on the same date as last year (June 4) and had the Bruins broken their 37-year drought to hoist Lord Stanley's mug, Milan Lucic could not have (legally) sipped the champagne in the locker room celebration.
See, Lucic won't turn 21 until June 7 of this year. And amid the disappointment of the Bruins' second-round exit from the playoffs this season, that's a sobering reminder of the youth and talent this team still possesses.
Lucic, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound winger, registered 42 points (17 goals and 25 assists) while spending much of the regular season and playoffs skating on a top line alongside Marc Savard and Phil Kessel.
Despite the strides in his own game as part of a highly successful 2008-09 season for the Bruins, Lucic found the abrupt ending -- a Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes at the Garden -- left a bad taste in his mouth.
"It's not a good feeling, not something you want," Lucic said as he talked with reporters during Monday's breakup day at the Garden. "It doesn't get any worse than that. There's no other way to put it."
So what happened to the Bruins after breezing through the first five games of the postseason, including a sweep of the rival Canadiens?
"I think we didn't really play all that well in games 2-3-4 (vs. Carolina)," said Lucic. "It took us until the last two games to turn it around and we couldn't wait that long to get it going again."
Lucic refused to use the layoff following a first-round sweep of the Canadiens as an excuse ("I don't know how you get that many days off in the playoffs like that, but that's something we had to deal with"), but is hopeful the team can bring back the nucleus of this year's squad and take another step forward next season.
"We had a real good group here, a lot of good chemistry," said Lucic. "It's totally out of my control, but obviously I would love to have everyone back -- the same type of group. We had a lot of success with the group that was put together."
Lucic applauded the fans for their support ("We love having them in the building and they're a big reason we had a great home record... we expect to see them all back next year.") and suggested consistency would be something he's looking to improve in his game next season.
"The more and more you (play), the more and more you learn how control it and bring it all the time," said Lucic. "I think that's your goal most as a player."
One positive for Lucic, whose high-intensity play would seemingly put him at risk for injury, is that he emerges from the 2008-09 season relatively unscathed (he did hurt a toe blocking a shot during the playoffs). But considering how many Bruins are headed under the knife, Lucic will be largely unfettered when he hits the golf course (or, more likely, the weight room) this summer.
For more on Lucic's offseason plans, check out this article in today's Globe.
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