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.

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.

*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.  

*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.

*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.

*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.

*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.

*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.


 

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

Both Millers missing from Bruins practice, but trending toward return

BRIGHTON, Mass – While both Kevan Miller and Colin Miller were missing from Bruins practice on Saturday morning, both injured Bruins defensemen could be rejoining the team soon.

Colin Miller skated on his own prior to Saturday’s team practice at Warrior Ice Arena for the second or third time since suffering a lower body injury in the win over the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien said his presence on the ice was proof that the puck-moving defenseman is “definitely on the mend”, and could be nearing a return to practice soon with Sunday marking the sixth straight game that he’ll have missed.

Kevan Miller is out with a concussion suffered last weekend in the win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and the B’s current three-game losing streak has coincided with his absence from the lineup.

Julien said Miller has actually been away from the team for the last couple of days while dealing with a virus, and that his recovery from the concussion symptoms was good prior to being knocked down by the illness.

“Kevan was actually feeling really well and then he got hit by a virus that’s kept him in bed for the last two days,” said Julien. “It’s nothing to do with his original injury. There was a possibility he could have been ready very soon, but that’s set him back a bit.”

Both are obviously out for Sunday’s matinee against the Penguins, but a return to practice at some point next week seems like a good bet for both players. Here are the line combos and defense pairings from Saturday’s practice with the Bruins focusing on getting a good result in Pittsburgh with the hockey club on a “mom’s trip” with 22 of the players’ mothers traveling with the team to and from the game:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Blidh/Beleskey-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

McIntyre