Talk about plans that work out perfectly.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli imported Nathan Horton from the Florida Panthers in the days prior to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft because Boston had finished last in the league in goals scored. Horton, a former 31-goal scorer, figured to be all the Bruins needed to regain some semblance of a productive offense.
While he needed some help in resuscitating the Bruins’ scoring and came up short in his bid to return to the 30-goal plateau, Horton still lived up to his advanced billing and was just what the Bruins needed.
The importance of three of Horton’s eight postseason goals — the game-winners in Game 5 and 7 vs. Montreal, and Game 7 vs. Tampa Bay — sewed his name into Bruins’ history not just as a great offseason addition but a clutch performer that will also go down in Boston sports annals with the likes of David Ortiz and Adam Vinatieri.
Regular season: 80 GP, 26-27-53, plus-29
Playoffs: 21 GP, 8-9-17, plus-11
Contract status: Signed through 2012-13 at a cap hit of $4 million
Best regular-season moment: Horton was in the penalty box for two goals against Feb. 9 vs. Montreal, but he more than made up for it with a goal and four assists, plus a plus-5 rating. He fired six shots on net and continued to show a newly found abrasive side with the numerous runs he took at Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban.
Best playoff moment: How do you top beating the hated Canadiens with an overtime goal in Game 7? Well, you provide the only goal of the game — a third-period score — in a clinching Game 7 to win the Eastern Conference title and secure the Bruins a Stanley Cup Final berth for the first time in 21 years. Horton’s goal against Tampa Bay off a feed from linemate David Krejci will go down in history as one of the biggest goals in team and league history.
Worst moment: The middle of the winter was going haywire for Horton, and head coach Claude Julien tried to get a message across to his star winger by benching him for a 7:20 chunk of the third period in 4-3 loss at Tampa. It took Horton a few more weeks to get going, but all the cajoling from the coaching staff and hard work from Horton paid off with a monster second half.
Regular-season grade: B
Playoff grade: A. Sure there were a few quiet times, but when you score three clutch goals in one postseason, play through a separated shoulder and then have your season ended short by a cheap shot from Aaron Rome, you’ve earned yourself a perfect grade.
Carnac predicts … assuming everyone’s being honest about Horton being over his concussion symptoms, the winger should be ready for huge second season in Boston because he won’t have to adjust to new environs and he obviously now knows he has what it takes to be a true Bruin.