In praise of Jarome Iginla

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When Nathan Horton bolted Boston this summer, the Bruins’ top line had a sizable hole next to David Krejci and Milan Lucic — one the club hoped to fill by signing Jarome Iginla.

At the time, the deal made a lot of sense.

Today, it looks like a masterstroke.

Iginla’s meshed into Boston’s lineup as well as any free agent from last summer’s class (Jaromir Jagr’s been great in New Jersey, too). While everyone figured Iginla would be a good fit, not many expected he’d be this good; he leads the Bruins with 25 goals and reports of him “slowing down” in Pittsburgh (which were always exaggerated, given he had 23 points in 28 games as a Penguin) now appear to be a tad premature — Iginla’s actually gotten better as the season’s progressed, scoring 10 goals and 19 points over his last 15 games.

“It’s been great having him here,” Lucic said, per ESPN Boston. “You can see he’s obviously come into his own here and starting to feel good about himself. We all know what he can do from what he’s done in the past and he’s definitely a confident guy that’s always pushing for more.

“You see the little things in him that has made him so successful throughout his career and it’s starting to show more and more as this season goes on.”

In some ways, Iginla is a better fit for the Bruins than Horton was — specifically in the health department. Horton struggled with concussion and shoulder issues during his time in Boston whereas Iginla, known for his durability, has appeared in all 68 games for the B’s this year while averaging over 18 minutes per night.

(Not that Ironman Iggy is any surprise. Same guy, after all, that played in over 450 consecutive games for Calgary from 2007-12.)

The Bruins also seem to have embraced Iginla’s leadership qualities. This isn’t to diminish Horton’s presence, but he opted to leave Boston for Columbus in the search of a quieter, less-intense market. Iginla played in hockey-mad Calgary for years then joined Pittsburgh in a ballyhooed move, and has extensive experience serving as a captain.

It’s all stuff the B’s appreciate.

“He’s exactly what he was advertised as,” head coach Claude Julien said. “He’s a good team player, a hard worker, and a competitive guy. I can see why he had a letter in Calgary because he has that leadership quality in him.”

Looking ahead, it’s going to be very interesting to watch Iginla come playoff time. The B’s relied on veteran acquisitions in each of their last two Stanley Cup runs with Mark Recchi and Jaromir Jagr, but that pair had already won championships.

Iginla’s come close once before, losing Game 7 of the ’04 Final to Tampa Bay, but has never hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug. He’ll be looking to change that this spring.