Notes: Horton steps into spotlight

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Notes: Horton steps into spotlight

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Nathan Horton always has a smile on his face, kind words, and a polite thank-you for just about everyone he meets in life.

Theres been a little more of Game Face Horton as things got closer to the playoffs, but that was to expected from a guy who's working on his first NHL Stanley Cup playoff experience. Saturday nights Game 5 was one of the good nights for Horton, as he pounced on a rebound in front of the net and scored a greasy goal to power the Boston Bruins to a 2-1 double overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

I saw the rebound, we had control of the puck, and I saw the rebound come out. It was. It was like its in slow motion, said Horton. It was just sitting there. Ill tell you, it felt good to put that in the net. Obviously winning the game, it was a pretty special moment.

The play was unique, as both Andrew Ference and Milan Lucic were running something similar to a pick-and-roll near the blue line to keep possession of the puck in the Habs' zone. Ference finally fired a shot from the point though traffic and a David Krejci screen. Carey Price was able to get a pad on the puck, but he kicked the rebound right to Horton crashing in from the right side. Horton tapped it into the open side of the net.

The first line was better and that was a good sign," said coach Claude Julien. "Scoring that OT goal will hopefully give that line a real good boost. And we all know how when you start thinking positively, things start to be a lot easier. And I think they were carrying some weight from not producing and being one of the lines wanting to produce.

"But . . . now Horton knows what if feels like to score a game-winning, overtime goal in the playoffs and he was a pretty happy man in the dressing room.

Lucic picked up an assist on Hortons goal for his first point of the postseason, and also led the Bruins with a team-high eight shots on net. Lucic had previously only attempted five shots total in the first four games of the playoffs.

Lucic got a couple of excellent chances in close to the net.

"Well, I mean we were chipping away all game long, it seemed like," said Lucic. "And I dont know what it is . . . whenever I get a scoring chance it seems like its not going in. But . . . we didnt get frustrated and it was almost like when we had the opportunity in overtime we wanted to do whatever we could to step up and contribute to this team."

Boxer Micky Ward of Lowell, the subject of the movie "The Fighter," was in the crowd for Game 5 at TD Garden, along with former New England Revolution player Taylor Twellman.

The Bruins and Canadiens played their first scoreless first period of the series, Boston also came up with the first home victory of the series.

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

Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

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Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Danton Heinen has to know he’s got a fair shot to win an NHL job out of B’s training camp if he plays with confidence and assertiveness. 

So far, that little Black and Gold carrot has served him well in the preseason. The 21-year-old winger has scored a goal in each of his first two preseason appearances for the Bruins. He will be pushed back into the lineup again vs. the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

The difference this time around is Claude Julien will be behind the bench once again for the Bruins after his time with the World Cup of Hockey and the B’s lineup will start to take on more of a real NHL feel with David Pastrnak and David Backes entering the mix.

Julien has liked what he’s seen thus far out of the University of Denver product, and clearly he’ll keep getting looks as long as the production and good work ethic are there.

“I think he’s been a real good player. He’s a smart player that seems to be heady and sees the play well. He seems to be in the right place and understands the game,” said Julien. “The hockey sense is something that you either have or you don’t, and I think he has great hockey sense. It certainly makes a great hockey player. I’ve liked him so far and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.”

One other thing is certain: wing positions are open on the roster with Frankie Vatrano out for three months and Jimmy Vesey sharpening his skates at Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger.

“We have to keep an open mind.  Frank Vatrano is hurt, and we kind of felt that he was going to have a really good start to this year. His confidence seemed to be at its highest, and the World Championships were good for him,” said Julien. “We have to look at what we have for a replacement. We went after Jimmy Vesey and we didn’t get him. So there are some spots that are open, and there’s no doubt about it.

“I’m going to be looking at compete level and I’ll be watching for the next three games to see who can fit in those spots. There are open spots, so it’s not cut-and-dried like a lot of years when it has been.”

Clearly, the high-end offensive skill is there after posting 36 goals and 93 points in his first two years at the University of Denver prior to going pro, and Heinen has a dollop of pro experience after getting into three AHL games with Providence at the end of last season. 

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder showed off the playmaking ability setting up his teammates for chances in Friday night’s win over the Red Wings, and then finally scoring at crunch time in the third period when the coaching staff moved Zach Senyshyn to his opposite wing.

Both of his goals in this preseason have been tying scores in the third that factored prominently in the game’s outcome. That’s been impressive for a young prospect in his very first NHL camp.

But Heinen claims there is still more to come in his game, and that’s encouraging. He’s just starting to get comfortable as a player that uses his vision, hockey IQ and passing to generate loads of scoring chances when he’s on the ice.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve felt better as things have gone on, and I felt better [on Friday against Detroit] than I did in the first game,” said Heinen, who finished just behind a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin for the NCAA scoring title as a freshman a couple of years ago. “I just need to keep getting better. I think I have a lot more to give. I’m just trying to put my best foot forward, and we’ll see what happens.

“I think I’ve rushed a few plays where I feel like I could hang onto [the puck] and make a smarter play. So it’s little things like that. As I play a little more then I get more comfortable hanging onto it, so I hope to do a little more than that.”

It will also be interesting to see how Heinen responds to again being in the B’s lineup on Saturday for back-to-back, physical preseason games when the NCAA schedule can be a bit more spaced with weekend games. 

There are other candidates like Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn that have enjoyed solid training camps to date for the Bruins, but it feels like Heinen is starting to push ahead for one of those winger roster spots Julien has in mind as he watches these final four exhibition games leading into the regular season. 
 

Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

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Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while gearing up for Big Papi weekend.

 
*A “behind-the-scenes” look as Jimmy Vesey was sold on the New York Rangers, but there’s not too much detail about the pitches from the other teams. Feels pretty apparent at this point that Vesey wanted to live, and work, in New York City.

*Damien Cox says that the World Cup of Hockey better get it right the next time, or else…or else what, Damien? You’re going to block them on Twitter?

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban making their preseason debuts on Saturday. David Backes and David Pastrnak will play their first preseason games for the Bruins as well.  

*It’s a complicated, strange story with Vladimir Sobotka, the KHL and the contract he seemingly can’t get out of to again play for the St. Louis Blues.

*Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to get back to work with the Arizona Coyotes after his World Cup experience.

*San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier is out for the next month with mono, which is definitely worse timing than Zach Senyshyn getting hit with the mononucleosis bomb over the summer.

*A quick look at the Philadelphia Flyers in advance of their preseason meeting with the Black and Gold tonight, which won’t be televised.

*For something completely different: there will be some pretty funky stuff happening on The Walking Dead this season.