Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Why Canucks Win with Horton Injury, Rome Suspension

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Stanley Cup Finals 2011: Why Canucks Win with Horton Injury, Rome Suspension
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In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Aaron Rome of the Canucks delivered a Scott Stevens-style hit that left Nathan Horton of the Bruins unconscious on the ice.

I'm not going to rehash the hit, but suffice it to say that in the '90s, this would have been deemed a good hit. However, this hit happened in 2011, not the dead puck era of the '90s and early 2000s. The game has changed.

Rome received a 5-minute major for interference, a game misconduct, and then a four-game suspension. The suspension will remove him from the remainder of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The latest report from the Bruins says that Horton has been released from hospital, but will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals with a severe concussion.

The injury update is actually a good thing, relatively speaking.

First, there aren't any spinal injuries, which was a concern when the medics stabilized his neck before taking him off the ice on a stretcher.

Second, by stating it was a severe concussion rather than the generic "upper body injury", the Bruins are showing that Horton's health is more important than winning.

By following the NHL's concussion protocol, unlike what the Chicago Blackhawks did earlier with Keith Seabrook, Horton will have to stay out until he goes at least seven days without symptoms. The Bruins won't be able to avoid the concussion protocol and rush Horton back into the lineup, risking his future health.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

But questions about the suspension and Horton's health aside, how does this affect the Stanley Cup Finals?

For the Bruins, Horton is a huge loss.

Horton had eight goals and nine assists in the playoffs, and his 17 points was tied for second on the team with Patrice Bergeron, just behind David Krejci's 20.

He scored three game-winning goals this spring, none bigger than the late goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals that put the Bruins into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since Ray Bourque was manning the blue line.

His +11 rating was the tops amongst Bruins forwards, and he played 16:54 a night on the top line.

Horton was a key piece in the Bruins lineup, and can't be replaced.

Rome, on the other hand, is replaceable.

I don't say that to denigrate Rome, who is a very popular player for the Canucks, and the hit and subsequent suspension are out of character for him.

But in reality, he is the sixth or seventh defenseman on the depth chart when everyone is healthy. And the Canucks have a very deep defense corps, so he can be replaced without the team missing a beat.

Rome has played in 14 playoff games this spring, and has a +3 rating and a single point. He generally plays on the third pairing, and his job is just to be dependable and play it safe with the puck.

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He is fourth on Vancouver's defense in hits (31), sixth in blocked shots (15) and his average time of 13:01 on the ice is eighth amongst the nine defensemen that have dressed for the Canucks this spring.

His suspension means that either Keith Ballard or Dan Hamhuis will draw back into the lineup.

Ballard has been used sparingly, only playing in nine playoff games to date, but on pretty much any other team including the Bruins, he would be a top four defenseman.

Hamhuis normally plays with Kevin Bieksa on the Canucks top pairing, but was injured during Game 1 throwing a hip check on Milan Lucic. He is currently listed as day to day with what Alain Vigneault is calling a "middle body injury".

Ideally Hamhuis will be healthy enough to play, as the Canucks could then go back to their usual pairings, with Andrew Alberts taking Rome's spot on the third pairing.

In the end, the Bruins lost a top-line winger, and the Canucks lost a sixth defenseman.

One of those is replaceable, and the other is not. And at this time of the year, that difference could be a deciding factor in who hoists the Stanley Cup.

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