Bruins

Horton shines as B's win 'the right way'

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Horton shines as B's win 'the right way'

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The Bruins proved Thursday night that they can win without all the fights. They proved that, in spite of what all the talking heads outside their locker room say about them, they can overcome whatever it is being said about them or the team coming into their building.

And they did it by remaining disciplined.

Discipline comes with keeping the gloves on, even if everyone packing into the TD Garden for a game against the rival Montreal Canadiens thinks they're in for a blood bath.

For these Bruins, keeping the gloves on means not risking any unnecessary injuries. It also means keeping their key offensive pieces on the ice.

And as much as Nathan Horton should have potted twice the number of goals he's had this season -- given all the scoring chances he's had -- he's still one of those key offensive pieces.

A few nights ago against the Devils, Horton was skating around with a purpose. He wanted to be physical. He wanted to run his mouth. He wanted to find a fight. So much so that the officials had to confront him along the half-wall before a faceoff in the offensive zone. They had seen and heard enough.

Horton has proven this season that, while playing a physical game, he can produce. He's also proven that, while playing a physical game, he can hit scoring slumps. With Horton, the two don't necessarily come hand in hand, like it does for his linemate, Milan Lucic.

But on Thursday night, he wasn't looking for a fight. None of the Bruins were. That was the game plan.

"We just went out there, we were focused on doing it right," said coach Claude Julien. "And for us, it's a win that we needed, for all the right reasons, standings and everything else. I think our guys felt good about our performance tonight, and rightfully so."

The Bruins had to feel good about Horton's performance in Thursday night's 7-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. He played his game. And like it or not, his game is scoring. Nothing more, nothing less. And he played that game in what felt like a playoff atmosphere.

"This is definitely a little bit of a taste," said Horton after the game. "It feels like the playoffs a little bit. It's going to get like that even more.

"Once you get into the playoffs, that's another story," Horton later added. "It feels good right now. Like I said, we'll enjoy it tonight, and it will be in the past tomorrow."

Horton was acquired to put the puck in the net, and he did so twice against the Habs at the TD Garden. And he did it even though this was a game that had all the makings of the Canadiens getting under the skin of a guy like Horton, only because they know that when he's is in the penalty box for a five-minute fighting penalty, that's one offensive threat their goaltender, Carey Price, doesn't have to worry about.

But Horton didn't lose his cool and he stayed on the ice, for the most part.

A high stick caught him above the right eye late in the first period, while the Bruins led 2-0. Horton left the ice to get some repairs done and came back with several stitches, then gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead with 42 seconds left on the four-minute power play that resulted from the high stick that he took.

Horton went hard to the net from the left wing, and Lucic, who had the puck in the left corner, tried to fire a hard pass through the slot to a streaking Zdeno Chara down the right wing. But Canadiens defenseman Paul Mara blocked it, and Horton was right there to knock the loose puck into the empty net.

"It's a tough one I guess," said Horton. "I just got hit with a stick and I came back. It was nice to always get the goal, but to get that other cushion there, it was nice, going into the second.

"I was just going to the net. I was just busting to the net. Lucic was trying to hit the defenseman. I think Chara was back there, and Mara blocked the pass, and it bounced to me, so I just hit it."

Horton added another goal four minutes into the third, finishing a nice David Krejci saucer pace on a 2-on-1 by sniping the top-right corner on price. It was his 22nd goal of the year and gave the B's a commanding 4-0 lead.

Sure, there have been several major dry spells for Horton this season. And given the number of chances he's had all season, asking for more than 22 goals this season isn't asking for too much.

But at least he proved that when the Bruins need him on the ice most, to focus on, as Julien said, "doing it right," Horton will be out there doing what they need him to do.

And that's scoring. Nothing more, nothing less.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

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Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

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Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the return of Adolfo to Toucher and Rich this morning.

*Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have received plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years as talented, young stars in the league, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien details how things haven’t gone ideally for either of those youngsters, or their teams, this season. Clearly, it’s not at this level yet, but just think about the hype behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when they were drafted 1-2 back in 2010, and what they have, and haven’t, been able to accomplish in the league since that time.

*Outstanding rookie Brock Boeser credits a conversation with Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green for helping spark his game this season.

*Good video piece on the near miss of Wayne Gretzky almost playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs after dominating them in the playoffs.  

*Salivating for some hockey trades? The 10 potential NHL trade deadline targets around the league as we wait for players to become available for trade later in the season.  

*Hockeybuzz is asking what the NHL, and more specifically the Hockey Hall of Fame, has against goaltenders?

*For something completely different: A great piece from Drew Bledsoe on the tragic passing of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn, and how his death came just as he seemed to be putting all the pieces of his life together.