Nathan Horton is huge plus for Bruins | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNathan Horton is huge plus for Bruins

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | 11:33 AM

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Nathan Horton (18) of the Bruins has seven goals, 17 points and, most telling, is a plus-21 in 16 playoff games this spring. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Nathan Horton (18) of the Bruins has seven goals, 17 points and, most telling, is a plus-21 in 16 playoff games this spring. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Whether you love or hate plus/minus ratings, what Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton is accomplishing in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs is putting him in select company.

Certain things are part of my daily morning hockey routine, such as combing through the Internet, reading multiple sites, blogs and Twitter accounts looking for interesting stories and angles that may make for a good discussion on Hockey Night in Canada Radio on SiriusXM.

The fact that you are reading this right now proves that you are probably no different than I am.

However, one thing I have done for years, day in and day out, is to check the NHL scoring leaders, both in regular season and playoffs. Don't ask me why. I'm not a fantasy player or anything. It's just become my morning coffee. My day doesn't really begin until I've seen the Top 30 scorers.

I was having my "morning coffee" the other day and nothing really seemed out of the ordinary. David Krejci was in the same spot -- atop the playoff scoring list along with many of his Boston Bruins teammates, one being Nathan Horton.

While Horton's playoff numbers (seven goals, 17 points in 16 games) have been impressive, one jumped out at me: Horton's plus/minus rating is a plus-21, far and away the best in the playoffs (Krejci is second at plus-14.

OK, I can see advanced stats guys already rolling their eyes. In fact, I'm pretty sure they've already left this post in search of Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts. If you haven't left, hear me out. Are there problems, gaps, holes with a stat like plus/minus? Yes, of course there. But we're talking about a massive number here. I couldn't remember seeing a playoffs in which a player finished plus-20 or higher. So I started digging and here is what I found. It has only been done five times, by four players:

  • Wayne Gretzky, +28 in 1984-85
  • Paul Coffey, +26 in 1984-85, +21 in 1983-84
  • Jari Kurri, +24 in 1984-85
  • Charlie Huddy, +20 in 1984-85

That explains it, the reason I couldn't remember it happening was because I was five-years-old at the time.

To recap, the only time it happened, it was done by...

1) Four skaters on arguably the greatest offensive machine ever assembled

2) Three players now in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Here is the difference between what Horton is doing and the accomplishments listed above. Not to take anything away from the Oilers dynasty, but the offensive numbers were so astronomical that they sort of masked the fact that it was hardly a defensively sound team. That playoff season, the Oilers allowed over three goals per game yet scored 4.5 per contest. They also had a goal differential of plus-41. Second on the list? The Philadelphia Flyers at plus-7!

This spring, Boston's defensive display against the Pittsburgh Penguins was a thing of beauty. The top line of Krejci, Horton and Milan Lucic not only has been scoring, but it rarely gets scored on either. The Bruins have the second-best offence in the playoffs (3.12 goals scored) and the best defence (1.88 goals allowed).

Whether you love or hate plus/minus, what Horton is doing is incredible and putting him in some pretty good company. And it's not completely out of the realm of possibility to say that he at least has a shot at Gretzky's record of plus-28, so it's definitely something to keep an eye on.

For those of you who decided to stick it out with this post before heading over to 30 Thoughts, I thank you and leave you with this -- when I brought this stat up to Elliotte himself on Hockey Night in Canada Radio, his response was short and complimentary: "I may steal that."

Follow Rob Pizzo on Twitter @robpizzo

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