Horton's stirring for Bruins; will Krejci be next?

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Horton's stirring for Bruins; will Krejci be next?

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nathan Horton scored just his second goal in 21 games on Tuesday night in Carolina. No doubt, it was a weight lifted off his shoulders.

And on the surface, getting Horton back on the score sheet in the goals category is a joyous site for Bruins players, coaches, and fans.

As the third-place team in the Eastern Conference, with 31 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, its clear that this years Bruins team will be once again poised for a serious playoff run, especially with the rate goaltender -- and potential Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas has been keeping pucks out of the net.

The Bs are a team that some believe could still use another puck-moving defenseman. But even if that type of acquisition isnt made, there are a few pretty good puck-movers already on the roster, in Steven Kampfer and Dennis Seidenberg. And when you talk about shut-down D-men, captain Zdeno Chara changes an offensive gameplan like no other in the NHL.

But offensively even though the Bruins stand sixth in scoring with 154 goals this season there seemed to have been something missing.

Guys like Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, and Brad Marchand have been playing some of the best hockey theyve ever played as a professional, but still, the feeling was that there could be more.

Look no further than Hortons horrid stretch before this past weekends All-Star break, where the big winger had scored only one goal in his previous 20 games. Even though the Bruins went into the weekend atop their division, and looking pretty good in the conference standings, Hortons struggles gave the sense that this team could be, and probably should be playing better, and certainly producing more offense.

Horton snapped that scoring skid with a goal in Tuesday nights win over the Hurricanes. He worked the puck behind the net to David Krejci, and cut to an open space out front, where Krejci, quickly snuck a perfect pass out front, leading to Hortons one-time snapper upstairs.

Nobody can deny it. That was huge.

But look deeper into that goal, and even deeper into the reason why it felt as if these Bruins even with the sixth-most goals in the league could produce more offense. Youll find that, sure, Hortons offense is important. But if his scoring chances are coming from the players around him, then whats even more vital, is the play of Krejci.

I think David Krejcis game is important to our team, more than just Hortons, said Bruins coach Claude Julien on Wednesday. But he gave Horton a nice setup, and I thought Nathan, in tight, did a great job of lifting that puck up.

But David, as you know in the past, has always been the key to our teams success. Whether its been Bergeron or whether its been Savard thats gone down, hes picked up his game. Hes made a world of a difference for this hockey club. And he knows that. The better he plays, the better the team is, because hes that good of a player.

The wizard-like centerman showed that he was a world-class player in last years Olympics. But after starting this season with 10 points in his first 10 games, Krejci suffered a concussion that put him out of action for two weeks in November.

Since returning, Krejci has put up 24 points in 33 games. Following his assist on Tuesday night, Krejci has a total of seven goals and leads the team with 27 assists.

But what we saw in last years second half of the season, was a different gear than we saw in this years first half.

Bottom line is, Krejci has been good. But he can certainly be better.

And Krejcis pass to Horton in open space on Tuesday night was just a small example of how much Horton needs Krejci to get him the puck in those situations. And Hortons goal, snapping a 10-game scoreless skid, was an example of how much the Bruins need Horton to pick up his offense down the stretch.

With Marc Savard out indefinitely, and possibly missing for the rest of the season, and with no break-up of the Recchi-Bergeron-Marchand line in sight, it will be Krejcis duty to make sure Horton is getting those prime scoring chances.

Its a confidence thing, said Horton. Krejci is such a great player. You just try to get open, and youre going to get chances playing with him.

And if Horton keeps getting high-quality chances like the one he had on Tuesday in Carolina, hes going to keep scoring. And if he keeps scoring, the Bruins, behind the best goaltender in the league, will keep on winning.

But, perhaps, all of that is up to Krejci.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.