Boston Bruins

Horton's heroics earning him a reputation

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Horton's heroics earning him a reputation

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- @font-face font-family: "Times New Roman";p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; table.MsoNormalTable font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; div.Section1 page: Section1; Clutch doesnt always get you the Bruins player of thegame jacket.

Just ask Nathan Horton.

The Bruins top-line winger sat behind a microphone on theelevated postgame stage at the TD Garden on Wednesday, wearing Bostons vintagewindbreaker thats given to the deserving player after each game.

Horton deserved it on this night, for sure, after scoringthe game-winning goal in overtime and giving the Bruins a 4-3 win in Game 7 and a4-3 opening-round playoff victory over the MontrealCanadiens.

But he also could have received it on Saturday night, asHorton gave the Bruins a 3-2 series lead after knocking home a loose puck inovertime of Game 5 at the TD Garden.

Goaltender Tim Thomas deserved it on that night, accordingto Horton. As a result, Horton got his hands on the jacket for the firsttime, following his overtime heroics in Game 7.

And nobody had any complaints about the decision.

Its awesome, said Thomas after the dramatic win. I saidlast time, it couldnt happen to a nicer guy. But hes making a name forhimself as a big-game player, and thats great to see. For a guy who has neverhad the opportunity to play in the playoffs, hes making a reputation. Wewouldnt have won this series without him.

Horton had two goals in the series heading into Game 7. Butas big a piece as hes been to the team thus far in the playoffs, he had zero shots on netentering overtime on Wednesday night.

His first shot came 5:43 into that overtime. And he made itcount.

Horton was covering the right point, as Adam McQuaid pincheddown into the right corner, and then he switched with Zdeno Chara into the highslot. That's where Horton took a pass from Milan Lucic.

Horton ripped his first shot of the game, and theblistering slapper ended up in the right corner of the net, clinching theseries for the Bruins.

It was pretty nice, said Horton. It felt pretty good. Idont remember too much, but I remember Lucic going up with the puck, and Ijust tried to get open and come towards the net . . . It was pretty special,again. It doesnt get any better.

No it doesnt. Not for a 25-year old who spent the first sixNHL seasons in Florida, without a single game of playoff hockey.

Hortons getting his first taste of the postseason now, andhes beginning to show many that hes not feeling any type of playoff pressure.

Obviously, when you score two overtime goals in a series,you understand how big a piece of the puzzle this guys been for our hockeyclub, said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the Game 7 win. I thought he hada really good start the first month of the regular season, and then he cooleddown a little bit. But what I saw from Nathan, from the half-point on until theend, is a guy who really became a lot more consistent in his game, hispreparation was good. Whether he scored or not, he was battling, he playedhard.

I think hes really grown a lot in the second half, andthen right now, scoring those two big goals. I mean, hes been saving it forseven years, right? So he had a lot of winning goals in him.

Horton is in his seventh NHL season. He was acquired in anoffseason trade for the sole purpose of putting the puck in the net.

There were times during the regular season when it wasfrustrating to watch his dry spells. For that, and a 1-goal-in-20-games stretchbefore the All-Star break, Horton drew his critics. They were the same criticshe had while he was with the Panthers, calling him out for his disappearingacts.

In just seven playoff games, hes made himself quitenoticeable on three occasions. Two were after game-winners in overtime againstthe Montreal Canadiens.

Im really enjoying it, said Horton about his firstplayoff series. Every day is exciting. Every day is a new day, but it feelsgood, definitely.

"I could get used to this, you know, continued winning. Thatswhat its all about.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.