His ice time severely limited by head coach Claude Julien in the third period of the Bruins’ win Tuesday night, winger Nathan Horton finished the night with zero shots on goal.
It was the fifth time in 35 games this season that Horton has failed to test an opposing goaltender, and his 12th game of zero or no shots on goal this season.
Is this what $4 million per season buys?
Earlier this season, Horton admitted to D.J. Bean of WEEI.com that in Florida he took shifts off. Well, now it looks like he has changed his approach and decided to just take entire nights off. While the Bruins are riding the momentum of a three-game losing streak, they’re not going to get where they want to be in the spring with Horton only making cameo appearances.
Horton averages 17:01 of ice time and is a regular on Boston’s power play. But he’s just third on the team behind Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron with 81 shots on goal. As far as teammates, the oft-criticized Michael Ryder has endured just three shot-less games while skating three fewer minutes per contest than Horton. Blake Wheeler has also glided through five games without a single shot, but he averages just 15:22 of ice time and hasn’t been a regular on the power play for some time now.
Among all NHL right wingers, Horton’s 81 shots tie him for 37th. He’s actually behind players who are known more for their dangling than their shooting, including enigmatic Russians Alex Kovalev and Nikolai Zherdev. Comparing Horton to a couple of his former Florida teammates, David Booth has laid just one no-shot egg this season, while Stephen Weiss has failed to register a shot just twice.
There aren’t many excuses for Horton to not use his shot — described by the McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook as a “howitzer” — more often. In David Krejci and Marc Savard, he has played all season long with a pass-first pivot. He leads all Bruins forwards in power-play ice time.
Scoring slumps are going to happen to everyone. Horton hasnt’ scored in seven games, and he went through a nine-game drought earlier this season. Ryder, Wheeler, Bergeron and others have and will experience their own doldrums. But most of those players can do other things, in terms of killing penalties or winning faceoffs, to help get through those rough spots. Horton is on the Bruins’ roster to do just two things: shoot and score.
When he reached 31 goals in 2006-07, Horton fired 217 shots. The next year his 212 shots resulted in 27 goals. The Bruins need him to reach a goal total that lofty this season, but Horton’s on pace for just 189 shots (and 25 goals).
So for the love of Phil Esposito, Horton should shoot the puck more.