Whichever way you look at Aaron Rome’s late hit on Nathan Horton in Game 3, the bottom line is that Horton won’t play another game in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
That means that the Boston Bruins will need to find a way to win three out of four games against the Vancouver Canucks without their first-line forward with a rifle of a right-handed shot. He might not be the most consistent performer, but when his line combo with David Krejci and Milan Lucic gets hot, they’ve been among the NHL’s most dangerous trios in the 2011 playoffs.
So how are they going to do it? It looks like they’re going to shuffle their lines a bit while Tyler Seguin will return to the Bruins’ lineup after watching another game in street clothes on Monday. Here are the expected forward lines with Horton out and Seguin in, according to Joe Haggerty.
Lucic – Krejci – Ryder
Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi
Peverley – Kelly – Seguin
Paille – Campbell – Thornton
While it looks like mercurial sniper Michael Ryder will get the nod on the first line, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Bruins experiment with versatile new addition Rich Peverley in that spot as well. Ryder has the deadly shot, but Peverley might be a more reliable player in many ways. If Ryder gets hot, he could be a nice weapon for that first line, though.
It’s probably not fair to ask Ryder or Peverley to shoulder the burden of replacing Horton’s production on their own, though. One player who could generate more offense is Lucic, who discussed the situation with Haggerty.
“It’s an opportunity for someone to step up and we need someone to step up. Nathan has been one of our best players and we still have to go out there and focus on what we need to do to have some success,” said Lucic. “It’s tough. It’s a big loss. He’s been a huge contributor to us getting to this point. He was a big reason I was able to take my game to another level and now I’m going to have to step up without him.
“[Ryder and Peverley] are both great players. Peverley last year had 55 points, so he’s shown that he can produce in this league. Ryder has scored 30 goals a couple of times and he’s scored almost 150 goals in this league, so he’s proven that he can score. They both have good shots and know how to compete and play. We have to count on them to step it up and fill in for what we’re missing with Nathan.”
The Bruins have overcome plenty of setbacks in the past – especially when it comes to key offensive players suffering from concussions – so they should be familiar with dealing with challenges like these. They seem to be at their best when their backs are up against the wall, so we might see another rousing fight from a team that perseveres over and over again.