Why Nathan Horton might (or might not) make a big impact as a Boston Bruin

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nathanhortonboston.jpgWhen you ask many Boston Bruins fans (and hockey fans in general) about the team’s biggest transactions – or lack thereof – this off-season, they’d probably mention drafting Tyler Seguin or not trading Marc Savard or Tim Thomas. Yet when it all comes down to it, the biggest impact move might be landing talented-but-often-injured forward Nathan Horton in a trade with the Florida Panthers.

Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder discusses the possible production of Horton in Boston, but I think Phunwin’s original introduction of the trade explains the situation (both the pros and the cons) most succinctly.

Suppose I told you that Boston’s major offseason trade involved the Bruins picking up a guy whose goal scoring totals have declined three straight years, who has missed 32 games in the last two seasons, was a minus player the last two years, and to get him, they traded a defenseman who led the team in points during the playoffs, had a higher GVT than Zdeno Chara in 2008-9 and they threw in the 15th overall draft pick to boot.

Now, suppose I told you that Boston’s major offseason trade involved the Bruins picking up a guy who has scored 20 goals for five straight years, just turned 25 years old, was the 3rd overall pick in the 2003 draft, was the plus-minus leader for the Panthers last year, among players who played at least 40 games, and to get him, they gave away a defenseman who was a -14 player last year, was booed at home on several occasions, and threw in a mid-first round pick to get the deal done.

Let’s discuss some of the most tantalizing aspects of the addition first. Horton’s best center over most of his years with the Florida Panthers has been Stephen Weiss, who is actually quite a bit better than people realize but isn’t exactly an explosive player. Despite that fact, Horton tallied at least 20 goals in the last five seasons, even when hampered with injuries the last two campaigns (he totaled 20 in 65 games last season and 22 in 67 during 08-09). Imagine what the big, young (he’s only 25 years old) and skilled forward could accomplish if he skates shotgun with Marc Savard? Even if he doesn’t get first line billing, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are capable pivots too.

Of course, then we get to the Ifs. Horton missed 32 games over the last two seasons, with an injury as serious as a fractured leg in 09-10. Let’s not also forget the fact that two of the Bruins’ best centers (Savard and Bergeron) faced some serious concussion issues themselves, either.

This might seem like an asinine point, but I’ve also noticed that the best players on bad teams often flop in new atmospheres – just like at other supposed diamonds in the Florida rough, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester. (Remember when Jokinen was just a fabulous goal scorer stuck with the crummy Panthers? Yeah, so much for that.)

Those minuses aside, Horton isn’t expected to be the best player on the ice in Florida. If he can be a good compliment to Savard – and another tough to move body alongside Milan Lucic – he’ll be worth the cost of the trade. Of course, he’s going to have to stay healthy enough to prove himself, too.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.

Video: Ducks’ 3-3 goal survives goalie interference review

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When the Nashville Predators went up 3-1 in the third period, it seemed like they might finally put the Anaheim Ducks away in Game 6. The Ducks quickly responded with “Not yet.”

Two minutes after that 3-1 goal, Chris Wagner kept Anaheim’s hopes alive with a surprising tally. Corey Perry then bumped Pekka Rinne, but he was able to reset before Cam Fowler scored the 3-3 goal 8:52 into the final frame (of regulation).

In less than six minutes of game time, the tone of the contest changed rapidly. Now we’ll see if either team can get the next tally in the remaining minutes of the third or if the Stanley Cup Playoffs will see yet another overtime contest.

Here’s the Wagner goal:

You can see the 3-3 goal in the video above. Hold onto your seats.

Update: Moments after this was published, Colton Sissons‘ hat-trick goal made it 4-3. Could there be even more drama? We’ll see …

Game 6 is airing on NBCSN. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Coyotes’ Dylan Strome breaks Memorial Cup record with 7 points in game

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Dylan Strome’s journey to becoming a full-timer at the NHL level might be a little bumpy, but he continues to distinguish himself at other levels.

In the case of Monday, it was setting a new Memorial Cup record. With four goals and three assists, Strome’s seven-point game set a new record as he helped the Eerie Otters pummel the Saint John Sea Dogs 12-5.

They’ll face the Windsor Spitfires on Wednesday to determine which team goes to the tournament’s final round.

The performance wasn’t lost on his brother Ryan Strome.

Ducks dominate, but Predators enter third up 2-1

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So far, it seems like Jonathan Bernier playing instead of John Gibson for the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 has indeed been a pretty big deal.

Bernier allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced against to start Game 6, putting the Ducks in an early hole. The Ducks have been absolutely dominating the contest since then, but only Ondrej Kase could get a puck beyond Pekka Rinne through the first 40 minutes.

Seriously, the play’s been lopsided. Nashville managed a few shots after this tweet, yet it still tells much of the story.