According to fans at Joe Louis Arena, “Lucic sucks.”
The chants rained down from the sellout crowd during Game 4 last week, animosity built up after Milan Lucic speared Detroit Red Wings defenceman Danny DeKeyser and because of the way the Boston Bruins winger plays on the edge between the whistles and after.
Then Lucic scored the tying goal, silencing the building and helping the Bruins take a commanding lead in the series they wrapped up Saturday. Asked if the chants made scoring that goal more satisfying, the Vancouver native just smiled.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” he said. “I mean, any athlete would be lying if they said it doesn’t. It was good to get that one.”
Lucic fits the bill as the perfect playoff villain, and certainly not just in Detroit. His role as a hated opponent is sure to ramp up in the second round against the Montreal Canadiens as part of an intense rivalry where tempers tend to flare.
Last last month Lucic called Habs defenceman Alexei Emelin a “chicken” for delivering a low hip check on him. This is the fourth series in the past seven years between Boston and Montreal, and given fans’ and players’ long memories, that remark won’t be forgotten when the teams take the ice at Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4.
That’s OK with Lucic, a player who seems to thrive when being booed and heckled.
“That’s the beauty of sports: The fans get into it and it’s what makes it fun as well, especially in a playoff-series type of atmosphere,” the 25-year-old said last week in Detroit. “You can’t let it get the best of you. You want to try to get out there and create that satisfaction for yourself and come up with a big play.”
Lucic came up with a handful of big plays as the Bruins dispatched the Red Wings in five games. He had three goals and an assist combined with just one minor penalty.
No penalty was called on Lucic for deliberately spearing DeKeyser in the groin area from behind in Game 1, and he was not suspended. Instead, the NHL fined him $5,000.
But the Habs should be more worried about what Lucic can do with his stick near the net. A key to the series for Montreal could be trying to limit him to the same kind of production he had in the first-round series in 2011, when he had two assists in seven games.
The Bruins are betting that doesn’t happen again, especially considering how he fared against the Red Wings.
“He’s one of our big leaders and he comes up big in big situations,” Boston winger Brad Marchand said. “He just runs around out there, he’s a force in himself. He’s a great guy to have on our team.”
And an even better guy for opposing fans to jeer, even if it’s just what makes Lucic tick.