Horton: 'I still don't feel like I'm myself'


Horton: 'I still don't feel like I'm myself'

BOSTON -- Nathan Horton has been out of sorts for nearly the entire season, and only recently there have been modest signs of improvement.

In the seasons first 11 games there were two or three performances approaching Hortons high standards on the ice, and the top line right winger is on a Slowski Family pace for 15 goals, 37 points, a minus-22 and nearly 200 penalty minutes in a series of statistics that dont quite add up for the Game 7 hero.

One of the first steps toward fixing a problem, however, is admitting there is one to begin with. Horton finally went public with the struggles hes experienced finding his game coming off last years season-ending concussion, and related how out of sorts he feels on the ice. Horton is having major difficulty getting that crisp, quick release going off his stick and hes been out of position with and without the puck at points this season.

To be fair to Horton many of the Bruins have gone through this early in the season, but with Horton its been more pronounced and prolonged.

Im still trying to get my game back, admitted Horton, who has managed points in only four of the teams first 11 games this season. I dont feel 100 percent out there like Im myself. Im just trying to get that back.

With my timing and stuff I still dont feel like Im myself out there. I mean . . . Im fine, but I just need to be better obviously. I just need to be better. I had never had a concussion before or whatever. I didnt know what to expect. Obviously it has contributed a slow start, but Im just going to keep working through it. I have to be better, I know I can be better and I want to be better.

The player and the Bruins were both adamant there are no concussion-like symptoms remaining and physically he is feeling fine but Horton also admitted he doesnt feel like himself out on the ice.

Its very similar to the strange limbo existence Patrice Bergeron found himself mired in the season following his own severe concussion, and he knows exactly what Horton is fighting. Bergeron put up a very un-Bergie eight goals and 39 points in 63 games in and out of the Bruins lineup, and looks back at the season as a true bridge year toward getting back to his normal NHL self.

The two Bs forwards havent discussed their now shared experience yet this season, but Bergeron said his door is always open if Horton has any questions about life after the first big concussion.

That year when I came back it was more a question of timing and execution, and all that. I felt fine, but I also felt like maybe I was forcing things a little too much and putting too much pressure on myself, said Bergeron. I know what hes going through and hes going to come out of it for sure. Its not easy, but I know hes going to be fine.

The good news for Horton and the Bruins: Hortons concussion wasnt as severe as the one dealt out to Bergeron, and it shouldnt take nearly as long for the right winger to snap out of the haze. Claude Julien has seen evidence Hortons game is coming around, but the statistics and foolish frustration penalties would say otherwise at the present moment.

Last night Horton and his line played a lot better, and they competed better, said Julien. I told them today to put the stat sheet aside and look at what they did. They created some scoring chances and Lucic scored. The other two had their chances and played better. If they continue to compete like that then its only a matter of time before they start getting rewarded with goals, assists and everything else.

Horton has had a slow start to the season. I think anybody thats missed an amount of time with a concussion is going to be slow coming back. You saw Bergeron take half or of a year to come all the way back and Marc Savard when he came back too. Whether its hesitation or whatever it is, it can take some time to come back from a concussion. Its something weve noticed along the way.

Horton admitted that his Falling Down impersonation of Michael Douglas in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes was regrettable, but he didnt have as big a problem with the cross-checking penalty in the third period against the Montreal Canadiens last weekend.

Or the boarding penalty last night against the Senators when pucks werent falling into open nets for him.

Or his decision to skip speaking with the media masses following a needed win.

Instead Horton seemed to be speaking like a man looking for a clean slate to this season after Wednesdays practice at the Garden, and its justified given the fog that hasnt quite lifted from his game after a cheap shot from Aaron Rome in the Finals.

Horton saw some of the fog start to dissipate Tuesday night against the Senators, and thats good news for a guy battling just to get back to normal on the ice again.

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON -- Malcolm Subban still believes he can be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that sort of sheer, brazen self-confidence is admirable -- especially after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden Tuesday -- pretty much all the evidence points to the contrary. Given a shot because of injuries to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, nearly two years after getting pulled from his only other NHL appearance when he gave up three goals on six shots in St. Louis, Subban was taken out Tuesday night after allowing three goals on eight second-period shots.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone afterwards, a testament to his maturity and mental toughness.

“It sucks," said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one . . . but what can you do now, right?

"Obviously I want to be a No. 1 goaltender in the league. I was a [first-round draft choice] for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it . . . I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts, combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft have proven their worth and advanced to the elite level: Matt Murray. Frederik Anderson. Connor Hellebuyck. Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly Tuesday in his first chance to do so.

Hampered by a Bruins team not playing well in front of him, the first goal he allowed was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third was a softie low and to the glove side, a power-play strike authored by Ryan Suter. Instead of hanging in and giving his team a chance to win, Subban helped put the Bruins in a hole they couldn't escape.

While Claude Julien felt the poor performance "could be a combination" of goaltending and overall defensive lapses, he didn't let Subban off the hook.

“There are some goals -- I’m not going to lie -- there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had," said the coach.

But he also wasn't going to place the blame solely at Subban's feet.

"[I’m] not here to talk about a goaltender -- who’s in one of his first few games -- because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him . . .  and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide-open shots from the slot -- like the Chris Stewart score in the second period 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal -- are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player (Subban) who should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first-round pick in 2012. Anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after his two Bruins appearances. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first-round bust rather than a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer if Rask can’t make a rapid recovery from his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and, to be fair, the three goals allowed to Minnesota weren't all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that he should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie who'd been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, one who's never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.