Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs

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Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The boom was audible all around the rink, and signified multiple 200-pound bodies slamming into the corner with the kind of overpowering force that can only be achieved by skating speed along with a healthy dollop of brute force.

The top two Bruins forward lines along with the top four Bs defensemen were locked in 5-on-5 battle drills on half-ice at the end of Friday afternoons practice at TD Garden, and things were getting long on cuteness and low on intensity.

Patrice Bergeron was carrying the puck near the corner while attempting to cycle the puck, and he was absolutely clobbered by Nathan Horton from behind in a violent hit that knocked both Bergeron and Mark Recchi off their pins.

It was as if time froze once Horton had taken the biscuit from Bergeron and flicked the puck out of the zone, and there was a legitimate stunned expression on the face of both Bergeron and Recchi as they climbed back up on their skates.

Its a part of the game, right, said Bergeron. Thats the way its going to be in games. If you bring the intensity and emotion that you had in practice then everything will be fine. It was intense and I was the one on the receiving end, I guess. You need to get the puck out, and thats how you get the puck back, I guess. I was a little surprised. I wasnt expecting it necessarily, but its all good.

The message was certainly related to a turnover Bergeron made in the exact same spot in the defensive zone just one day earlier that led to Torontos game-tying goal, and perhaps Horton was sending out a message that everybody needs to get stronger on the puck.

As if to hammer his point home, Horton also drilled Dennis Seidenberg during another encounter in the always dangerous corner and the message really seemed to clear and appreciated.

Whatever the case, its got to make the Bs coaches giddy to see their top two forwards lines getting chippy with each other as ice time minutes and power play reps are worth their weight in gold during the playoffs. Both the Bergeron and David Krejci line could be considered No. 1 lines in the playoffs, and the BergeronRecchiBrad Marchand trio has actually led the forwards in ice time during each of the last few games.

That kind of thing has to serve as motivation to Horton and Co. on their forward line, and its starting to show in practice. That kind of fierce competition and intensity is only going to make all of the players up their competitive dials if its coming in small doses during practice on an as needed basis.

Killer instinct was exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers had last year in their playoff series with the Bruins once Krejci went down with a dislocated wrist courtesy of a Mike Richards collision at center ice. Theres always a little more room for all of that provided it remains once the real bullets start whizzing around in the playoffs.

Horton has been in a playoff state of mind with both his intensity and offensive production for the better part of a month. It was first noticeable when Horton enjoyed a monster of a game against the Edmonton Oilers in an otherwise sleepy affair, and knocked Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham out with one thunderous right hand to the face.

Since he took the ice in Edmonton Horton has 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) along with a plus-9 and three fighting majors in 16 games, and has sported the proper surliness needed once playoff hockey gets going. While Horton quickly made amends with Bergeron in a post-practice conversation in the dressing room designed to smooth things over before he left the Garden without fully addressing his motives, the statement cant help but be appreciated.

Horton and the rest of the Bruins play much better hockey and are way more effective when theres a man-sized chip on their shoulder. That chip has alternated sizes in the handful of recent games as the Bs basically play out the regular season string, but Krejci indicated the fireworks were all about players like Horton who never got to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs while doing time with the Florida Panthers getting emotionally ready for a huge postseason to the Boston franchise.

It is what it is, said Krejci. Just change it up a little bit, I guess. It was nothing personal or anything. The practice was a little sleepy, I guess, and the physical game woke us up a bit and the practice was way better.

Lots of people are going through different emotions. As long as when the playoffs come everybody is on the same page and theyre feeling comfortable with themselves thats what everybody wants.

The constantly smiling Horton looks like hes found a comfortable snarl on the ice with the playoffs approaching, and that seems to be what everybody wants given the results that have been hard to miss.

Just ask Patrice Bergeron.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

If it was based solely on his 42 years as owner of the Boston Bruins, it might be debatable as to whether Jeremy Jacobs would have been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Bruins have won one championship and been to a handful of Stanley Cup Finals during Jacobs' long stewardship, of course. They also enjoyed the longest running playoff streak (29 years) in NHL history, though it began before he purchased the franchise. Altogether, the B's have won one Cup, four conference championships, two Presidents' trophies, 15 division championships, and 35 Stanley Cup playoff berths during the Jacobs Era.

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But Jacobs didn't make the Hall of Fame solely on his accomplishments with the Bruins organization. He's being inducted in the "builder” category, which is defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”  In addition to overseeing the Bruins over the last four-plus decades, he has been a power broker at the league level for just as long.

"I am flattered to be included in with this great group of 2017 inductees, and I am humbled to be included with the legends of hockey that went before me,” said Jacobs. "Owning the Boston Bruins for 42 years has been one of the most rewarding honors of my life. I am indebted to our team's leaders and players, but most of all, to our fans, for giving me a broad and deeply appreciative perspective of the game."

The 2011 Stanley Cup victory was the overriding on-ice moment in his stewardship of the team, and the Jacobs family has had a major, altruistic impact in Boston. No one should overlook the Boston Bruins Foundation, which has touched so many lives with the $28 million that's been awarded to those in need since its inception in 1993.

Unfortunately, Jacobs will always have a reputation with a large portion of the Bruins fan base that his ownership wasn't willing to spend enough for truly competitive teams. At times he was viewed as an absentee owner living in Buffalo, overseeing the team from afar while Harry Sinden ran the operation. Those fans hold that grudge even today, despite the Bruins consistently spending to the salary cap ceiling while fielding competitive teams. They view Monday's Hall of Fame announcement as something akin to Montgomery Burns being inducted into the Springfield Hall of Fame.

Cam Neely disagrees.

"As a player, I knew of Mr. Jacobs' passion for the Bruins,” said Neely, who has served as Bruins president for nearly a decade after a Hall of Fame playing career highlighted by his years in Boston. "Over the past decade while in the front office, I have seen firsthand his dedication to winning, by consistently providing the Bruins the resources that we need to compete for Stanley Cup Championships and also his unmatched commitment to growing the game of hockey."

That commitment to hockey is a key factor in Jacobs' Hall of Fame selection.

Jacobs was unanimously voted in as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 2007, and he's been a major driving force in each of the last couple of oft-contentious CBA negotiations. While Jacobs clearly had a hand in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season due to a labor dispute, and in the lockout-shortened season of 2013, those CBA negotiations ultimately led to the imposition of a salary cap and a pathway for small-market NHL teams to survive as the cost of doing hockey business continues to go up.

Without Jacobs as an often hawkish, hard-line owner, there's a chance that a team like the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators might not have been able to survive in the NHL, and it's highly doubtful they'd be able to be as competitive as they are now if teams like Toronto, New York and Chicago could outspend everybody else. So there's no denying the seismic impact that Jacobs made at the league-wide level with his leadership and commitment to growing the game, and that the NHL is better off for the battles waged in collective bargaining while he's been in a position of power.

If you polled every single Bruins fan on the street, it's unlikely he'd be a populist choice for the Hall of Fame. The lean budgetary years durinhg the playing days of Neely, Ray Bourque and others will always be part of the Spoked B history. Some will hold those grudges forever, which is part of makes us who we are as a fan base.

But faithful, rabid fans continue to stream into TD Garden, continue to spend money to support their favorite hockey team, and continue to provide the kind of support that's led to a 338-game home sellout streak. It's a sign Jacobs and Bruins ownership continue to do things very right, even if we shouldn't be scheduling any popularity contests anytime soon.

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

Bruins don't extend qualifying offer to Joe Morrow

With free agency just around the corner, the Bruins have officially cut ties with former first-round pick and last bastion of the Tyler Seguin trade, Joe Morrow.

The 24-year-old Edmonton native arrived in Boston along with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser in exchange for Seguin when he was shipped to Dallas, and now all of those players have moved on from Boston as well. Boston does still carry Jimmy Hayes on their roster, a player traded from Florida in exchange for Smith, as a last remnant of the Seguin deal, but it isn't expected to be too long before Hayes moves on from Boston as well.  

The B’s announced on Monday afternoon that they hadn’t extended a qualifying offer to Morrow, as well as P-Bruins power forward Colton Hargrove, as a restricted free agent, and that both B’s youngsters were now free to sign with any of the 30 NHL teams as free agents.

The Bruins extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents in Noel Acciari, Linus Arnesson, Austin Czarnik, Zane McIntyre, David Pastrnak, Tim Schaller, Ryan Spooner and Malcolm Subban, and will retain the associated team rights with all of those players. Negotiations are ongoing between the Bruins and Pastrnak continue over a long term deal that would put him in the same $6 million plus per season level as teammate Brad Marchand, but one source with knowledge of the negotiations indicated it’s “not close” to being a done deal.

Some RFA’s like Spooner and Subban might not necessarily fit into the long term plan for the Black and Gold, but they need to maintain their rights if they hope to trade them as valued assets down the line.

Morrow never put together the talent that made him a former first-round pick while he was in Boston, and totaled just one assist in 17 games for the B’s before playing well in five playoff games after getting pushed into duty due to injuries. In all Morrow finished with two goals and nine points along with a minus-8 rating in 65 games over three seasons in Boston, but could never string together an extended run of consistent play at the NHL level.

With the Bruins in the market to bring on another left-shot defenseman into the Boston fold this summer, it was pretty clear that the time had come to move on from Morrow while allowing him to potentially develop as an NHL D-man elsewhere.