Horton began his Bruins career on fire, scoring two goals in his debut in Prague and posting 8-10-18 totals in his first 17 games. In 28 games since then however, he’s managed just 4-6-10 totals, with only one goal in his last 17 games and none in his last seven.
“Those guys don’t stay off the scoresheet for too long,” said Bruins forward Greg Campbell, who played in Florida with Horton since the 2003-04 season and came to Boston in the same deal for Dennis Wideman and a first-round pick.
But Horton has been held off the scoresheet for far too long. He last scored on Jan. 3 at Toronto, and that’s his only goal since Dec. 11. But Campbell remains certain that the goals will soon be coming again for Horton, who has shown some signs of progress of late on a revamped top line with Marc Savard and Michael Ryder.
“He’s had a lot of chances if you watch the games closely,” Campbell said. “He’s had great chances. Him and Savvy and Rydes have created a lot of chances, so it’s only a matter of time. Those guys are extremely gifted offensively, so it’s only a matter of time before things start going in for them.”
According to veteran teammate Mark Recchi, to get his shots in the net, Horton first has to start shooting.
“It’s a confidence thing,” Recchi said. “He’s got to pull trigger. No thinking, just pull it. He can shoot the puck like a rocket.”
But Horton is actually shooting the puck more. When he was averaging over a point a game with eight goals in his first 17 games, Horton had just 38 shots, an average of 2.2 a game. In the last 17 games, when he managed just one goal, Horton has had 46 shots, an average of 2.7 a game. And that has risen to 3.3 shots a game in the six games he’s played since returning from a undisclosed injury that sidelined him for two contests earlier this month.
“He’s extremely talented, he’s working and he just has to stay with it right now,” Recchi said. “We have to stay positive around him. He’s maybe got to get a couple ugly ones, get one off his [butt] or something. That would maybe get him going. But he’s got to get in that dirty area now. He can shoot the puck. He’s big and strong. He’ll get there.”
Horton did come close to breaking the drought on a couple of occasions in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Sabres. He was denied on a clean breakaway by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, but he did help Boston score its first goal. Horton, who was not present in the locker room during media access after the game, screened Miller on Dennis Seidenberg‘s point shot, and very nearly got one of those ugly goals Recchi mentioned as the puck came close to deflecting in off Horton’s body.
“He’s getting his chances and the first goal we scored is because he stood in front of the net on Seidenberg’s shot, so he is doing some good things,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But I think right now his confidence is probably at the lowest it’s ever been because he understands that he needs to score and it’s not happening.
“So I think he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, which may not be helping him right now,” Julien added. “I think everybody on this team, players and coaching staff, are really hoping to see him score a few goals so that he can get himself going. I think that’s what’s happening right now, he is really probably down as far as confidence is concerned and feeling the pressure.”