Despite his spot on the depth chart being a near certainty, and his value across the league as one of the elite power forwards today, Milan Lucic is viewed--by the ones who watch the games night in and night out--as a somewhat streaky, often coasting, frustratingly invisible player. Someone who falls asleep for games or even weeks at a time, and doesn't contribute in any facet of the game.
While it's true that goals sometimes come at a premium to Number 17, it's also apparent that he's not (and never was) a regular 30-goal scorer in this league. He hit the mark once in 2011, with five empty-net goals, but for the most part Bruins fans and coaches alike knew he wasn't one of the premier goal scorers on the team.
But it also doesn't mean he hasn't contributed in different ways. At his size, he's one of the best forwards on the team on the forecheck, ultimately creating scoring opportunities off turnovers. And if he's not floating around aimlessly in the slot, he can dominate in puck possession along the boards and around the net. Admittedly, he is less noticeable in some games more than others. Yet he also provides scoring in more ways than people give him credit for.
Hey look, a graph of fancy stats...
|Number of +3GM Point Streaks||3||1||7||4||4||6||25||n/a|
|Number of +3GM Scoreless Streaks||4||7||2||6||3||3||25||n/a|
|Number of +3GM Goal Streaks||1||0||1||1||0||0||3||n/a|
|Longest Point Drought (GMs)||6||6||7||4||4||5||n/a||7|
|Longest Goal Drought (GMs)||15||10||12||8||15||9||n/a||15|
|Longest Point Streak (GMs)||8||4||5||7||3||6||n/a||8|
|Longest Goal Streak (GMs)||3||2||3||5||1||2||n/a||5|
I went back through Game Logs and looked at how many scoring streaks of 3 games or more, scoreless streaks of 3 games or more, and overall point streaks and droughts Lucic has had since he came fully on board in 2008. From the information above, one thing is certain. Lucic is not a streaky goal scorer. To be a "streaky scorer" you need to score in consecutive games often. It's not that Milan scores multiple times over a few games and then disappears. He just doesn't score several games in a row, period. Add to that the fact that Looch is good for one 2-to-3 week long goal drought per season, and Lucic seems like an overpaid putz slugging along on the top line. But despite his lack of goals scored, he still contributes when it comes to goals created.
Lucic has an equal number of +3GM pointless streaks as he does +3GM point-scoring streaks over the last six seasons. And over the last four years, post-foot injury and when he really became the Lucic we know today, he actually has 7 more +3GM point-scoring streaks than +3GM scoring droughts.
His longest point drought over the last six years is only 7 games. For an elite talent, that seems like a lot. Now I'm not condoning that I want Lucic to go full goose egg for two weeks. But it happens to the best of the best. David Krejci had two separate five-game scoreless streaks last sesaon. Alex Ovechkin just ended a five-game scoring drought. Rick Nash had an eight-game pointless streak running through two playoff series last year. It happens. Unless your last name starts with a C and ends in -rosby, you're going to go cold for a few or several games over the course of an 82 game season.
The next part I'll put an asterisk on. The information came from Yahoo! Sports. And even though I like Puck Daddy, they also have the Bruins depth chart looking like this:
Nevertheless, they were the only source I could find that tracked Hits in Game Logs. Therefore, we have this...
|Number of Hits in GMs w/ Points Scored||97||61||131||289||n/a|
|Avg. Hits in GMs w/ Points Scored||2.36||2.77||2.91||2.68||n/a|
|Number of Hits in GMs w/o Points Scored||104||78||109||291||n/a|
|Avg. Hits in GMs w/o Points Scored||2.6||3.25||3.11||2.98||n/a|
|Longest Hit Drought||2||2||1||n/a||2|
The above debunks the theory that "Looch needs tuh gets his feet movin' and hit some people in ordah tah get intah the gaaaaaaame keeeeeeeed." In fact, if you value scoring or physicality, and only need Milan to show up in either sense, he's not that streaky at all. Over the last few seasons, he's lowered his shoulder for hits more when his point production hasn't been there. Granted it's not a huge margin--and neither was the correlation between "Lucic Hits" and the Bruins' W/L record. But more often than not, when he doesn't have the scoring or playmaking touch, he's contributing physically.
In fact, there are only 8 games over the last three seasons (207 games played) where Lucic has failed to register a point or hit. The Bruins won just two of those games, showing that when he's off, he's really off, and it trickles down from that top line. It also shows how valuable Milan can be when he does have his game going, so understandably it's frustrating when he has an off night. But the off nights are almost a necessity for him to be at his best in crunch time.
Milan Lucic is a player that can bring the energy in multiple ways, which is what makes him so valued across the league. He can score a goal and rally a team. He can cause panic and turnovers off of big hits. He can and will drop the gloves to make a statement. Asking him to do all of those things for 82 games a season and 20 more in the postseason is simply too much. You can't ask the team to limit Chara's minutes and Rask's starts to keep them fresh for the playoffs, and then complain that Lucic doesn't go full speed in January.
So is Milan Lucic streaky? It depends on what you want out of him. If you want points, it's a wash. If you want goals, most definitely. If you want hits, not quite. And if you want one of the three, he's not streaky at all. Ultimately, the vast majority of the time he's contributing in some way. It might be by hanging in the slot, controlling the puck, and knocking the opponent off the puck. And based on the eye test, it may look like he's taking games off. But make no mistake, he's out there.