In retrospect, Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton may have only meant to plug in his key to replenishing his game with his self-effacing remarks to the media last Wednesday. But who would have guessed he would hit the ignition so soon and so firmly?
One day after he posted zero points and a minus-one rating in an otherwise stimulating 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators, Horton underlined a “timing” problem on his part. And in what ought to be taken for an explanation rather than an excuse, he didn’t shy away from attributing his numb start to his recovery from last June’s concussion.
Three nights later, amidst a 7-0 slaughtering of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Horton was conspicuously absent from the scoresheet once more and registered only one shot on goal. Although this time he was at least on the ice for a pair of Boston goals.
But if his role in Monday’s 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders is any indication, Horton’s lingering hindrances were not so much in his head on a literal, medical front. Rather, they were in his head in the figurative, psychological sense.
Either way, the ailments defended against him as effectively as the Islanders’ backcheckers. And the same can be said for linemate David Krejci, who had similarly tumbled off course after a blurrily publicized injury sustained in an Oct. 11 practice.
Krejci’s ailment kept him out of action for three games. Upon returning, he brooked five consecutive scoreless transcripts while his rating took a glacial dip to a team-worst minus-six. Overall he had a six-game production drought in the works and had only one point to speak of, namely a goal in the second game of the season versus Tampa Bay.
As of Monday’s rendition of “Dirty Water,” however, he has suddenly charged up back-to-back logs of a goal and two assists. His rating has steadily improved by four points. And he landed a season-high four shots on net against the Islanders.
The Bruins kept up a week-old habit of tucking one puck in the net, then repeating the act before the PA announcer gets around to telling everyone who gets credit for the previous strike. And on both occasions, Krejci and Horton played a tangible role in the first goal.
First, Horton renewed a previously deleted Boston lead to 2-1 on a power play with Krejci garnering credit for the secondary assist. They subsequently took a seat and watched Tyler Seguin insert his team-leading eighth tally of the year 29 seconds after Horton’s conversion.
Two periods later, Krejci and Horton set up Milan Lucic for a rolling one-timer into a vacant right slab of the cage, augmenting the lead to 4-2. It took a mere 49 seconds thereafter for Horton to make it 5-2 on a short-range wrister.
Timing? Horton not only had it on his two goals Monday, which gave him a perfect 2-for-2 shooting percentage on the night. He also read and calculated his cross-ice feed to Lucic with commendable precision and patience.
In fact, the way Horton absorbed Krejci’s feed up the ice and ultimately handed things off to Lucic for a backdoor conversion evoked vague memories of his clincher in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference championship. Only this time, Krejci moved back to fill the old role of Andrew Ference while Horton assumed Krejci’s former position and let Lucic be the heroic finisher.
Come what may, neither of the helpers in question would have had much chance of pulling that off if their heads or their legs were not thoroughly in the game. Horton had that previously elusive timing and both he and Krejci had the hustle, as the Czech center demonstrated when he doggedly tucked the dagger into an empty New York net.
If Boston as a team has this knack for erupting on a shift-to-shift basis, Bruins buffs can sensibly hope that the often variable Horton-Krejci-Lucic troika could saturate a few scoresheets on a game-to-game basis.
One by one, they have all belatedly activated, with Lucic now riding a four-game goal streak, Krejci having logged back-to-back three-point outings and Horton finally joining in on Monday.
Nothing a simple, self-lit fire couldn't cure, huh?