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


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

By Danny Picard

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.

O'Gara sent to Providence, but could return any time


O'Gara sent to Providence, but could return any time

BOSTON – The writing was on the wall once Rob O’Gara was scratched in the last couple of games, and he was finally sent down to Providence on Tuesday. The move was made to clear room for Adam McQuaid to rejoin the B’s lineup, and help the Bruins continue improving from their 15th rank among team defenses in the NHL this season.

The 23-year-old O’Gara was a plus-1 rating in three games to start the season, and played very well in 16:01 of ice time while winning physical battles, adequately moving the puck and generally showing that he’s got a future in the NHL. With veteran defenders returning and little margin for error on a B’s back end already featuring 19-year-old Brandon Carlo, it was too much to attempt carrying two rookies on an NHL defensemen corps for a long stretch of time.

So now O’Gara will go to Providence where he’ll play bigger minutes, play in all situations and stay ready for the next time Boston needs him.

“He’s good. I think he makes good passes when he has time. I think we want him to work on maybe being under pressure, and being a little stronger on his feet and being able to make better plays,” said Claude Julien. “But he’s really close. When I say he’s real close I think you could see him back here at any time. I have no issues with Rob O’Gara.

“I think as a young player he has to play, so when we can play [him again] I have no issues with him in our lineup. If he doesn’t get [the playing time] here then we’ve got to get it for him somewhere else.”

While O’Gara is going to Providence for some more AHL development at this point in time, there’s a tacit acknowledgement from the Bruins that the big, hard-working defenseman is definitely going to be a valued part of their future.

Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient


Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It may be strictly due to injuries or because Ryan Spooner is being moved back to third line center full-time, but Danton Heinen is going to get another top-six look on the wing. The 21-year-old Bruins prospect will be skating on the left wing with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after serving as a healthy scratch last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens.

Heinen has only two shots on goal in the four games leading up to the scratch, and has been quiet offensively after leading the Bruins in goal-scoring during the preseason. Clearly there’s an adjustment to be made there, and it looked like the playmaking rookie winger was starting to develop a little more confidence trying to make plays while skating with Krejci and David Backes in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

Heinen actually looked reminiscent of Krejci on a couple of plays, pulling back the puck after entering the zone and catching a trailing B’s teammate with a perfectly executed lead pass on the offensive rush. That effort plus a trip to the ninth floor press box last weekend seemed to reinforce just how much time he has to make plays, and that should be a benefit for both Heinen and his linemates.

Sometimes getting that first NHL point is the hardest part when a player breaks into the league, and it’s been that way for the young winger through his first four games.

“[Krejci] is such a good player, and I just try to complement him any way I can,” said Heinen. “You never want to be up in the press box, but it gives you a different perspective on the game. It’s a different angle. From up there it looks like you’ve got way more time. I definitely think I can be more patient with the puck, and make some smarter plays.”

Heinen started to do that in his best NHL game to date prior to being scratched against New Jersey, and it resulted in greater offensive possession and a couple of potential scoring plays getting created for the B’s second line. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to actual goals, and Heinen knows that’s what needs to happen through him if a player like him, with an offense-minded reputation from his University of Denver days, is going to stick top-6 in Boston.

“You can’t rely on the [top] guys every night,” said Heinen, who watched the Habs beat the Bruins on Saturday night while essentially shutting down Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. “When we’ve been out there we’ve kind of been getting some chances, but we’ve got to bear down.

“[Krejci] likes to play with the puck a lot, so you just get him the puck, go in hard on the forecheck and try to get open because he’s a good distributor.”

It sounds like a simple plan that might be a very good thing for young Heinen, who needs to start breaking through offensively if he wants to stick around in Boston for the long haul.