VANCOUVER — Nathan Horton never got a chance to play in the postseason in his first six seasons in the NHL with Florida.
But his former Panthers teammates are not a bit surprised to see the success the Bruins winger is enjoying in his first taste of playoff action. Horton is tied for the Bruins' team lead with 8-9-17 totals and is a plus-10 in 18 games.
"No, he's a very good player," Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard said. "He's the type of guy when the games get harder, he just keeps going up higher and higher. We talked about it [Monday] in our meeting, he's a guy we really have to pay attention to."
Ballard played the last two seasons with Horton in Florida before being traded to Vancouver three days after Horton was dealt from the Panthers to Boston last June.
Horton never got the opportunity to see how high he could raise his game when it mattered most in Florida, but in Boston he already has three game-winning goals this postseason. That includes the winning goal in both Game 7's the Bruins have played, an overtime winner against Montreal in the opening round and the only goal in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay in the conference final.
The Canucks probably don't want to see what Horton could do in a third Game 7 this spring.
"That luck's got to wear off at some point," Vancouver forward Tanner Glass said. "But he's a good player and he's scoring some big goals. It couldn't happen to a better guy really."
Glass played with Horton in Florida for parts of two seasons from 2007-09, and offered plenty of praise for his former teammate.
"With Nathan, he's just a natural scorer," Glass said. "He's got that great shot and he has a knack for getting open and shooting the puck."
Horton didn't always receive such universal praise while with the Panthers, as he often had his work ethic and intensity questioned. Ballard wasn't having any of that, though.
"He can be just very, very dominant," Ballard said. "I think that's the player most people have seen throughout these playoffs. The games I've watched of them, I think he's been very good. I think with him, people have said a lot. He didn't get much credit in Florida for playing well. For two years I saw him put in so many dominating performances, but it almost seemed like people didn't want to decide for themselves. People would say he doesn't play hard or whatever the knock on him would be in the public opinion. Instead of finding out for themselves and watching him play, they'd just go along with it. The way he's playing now I think is the way he played a lot of the time I played with him."