He missed the entire seven games of the Bruins’ first round loss to the Washington Capitals last year due to a concussion, but he hasn’t lost a step.
After he helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Finals two years ago with overtime winners against the Montreal Canadiens and the Game 7 winner against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, Nathan Horton is returning to his postseason form.
Two years later, Horton has yet to provide any game-winning heroics, but he is still producing for the Black and Gold. The third-year forward leads all skaters this postseason with an astonishing plus/minus rating of plus-17 and his 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) is good for a tie for fourth with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
In Game 1 against the Penguins, Horton tallied the primary assist on David Krejci’s two goals and added a tally himself to put the Bruins ahead 3-0. That type of production certainly pleased his fellow Czech linemate, who leads the league in scoring with 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists).
“I think Nathan played really well today,” Krejci said after Saturday’s victory. “He set me up for my two goals and scored a big one in the third.”
While Horton isn’t providing heroics, he is still scoring timely goals. An example of this came in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. With the B’s trailing 4-1, the ex-Florida Panther scored the first goal to bring the Bruins within two. The rest of course was history.
Despite a hand injury late in the season after a fight with Jarome Iginla on April 20th, Horton’s game continues to improve.
“I think he’s been as consistent as we’ve ever seen him,” head coach Claude Julien said about the 28-year old forward. “Nathan at times with some of the injuries and everything that set him back, took him a while to get going. But he’s at the top of his game right now, and I’ve been saying this for the past couple of weeks, in order to win the Stanley Cup you have to be playing your best hockey at this time of the year.”
Much like they did two years ago, Horton and fellow his linemates, Krejci and Milan Lucic, are leading the way. Through 13 games, the trio have combined for 45 of the team’s 115 points accounting for 39 percent of Boston’s offense.
At a time where Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr are struggling, Horton, Krejci and Lucic have done a nice job filling the gap. That’s an encouraging sign for the trio, who had their share of inconsistencies during the regular season.
“I think playoffs is when you want to play and you have to work to get there,” forward Daniel Paille said about the top line. “And I think they obviously did a good enough job for us to get here, and their play speaks for itself right now.”
The Bruins are off to a good start in the series and will come back to TD Garden for Game 3 with at least one win under their belt.
While they are pleased with the Game 1 win, Horton and company know that they’ll need to play better if they want to dethrone the top team in the Eastern Conference.
“It was nice to get that first win, but we’ve got three more to go here,” Horton said. “We need to play good, or even better if we want to keep on winning.”