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Bruins

Losing Nathan Horton May Be Too Much To Overcome And Other Leftover Bruins Thoughts

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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David Krejci and Nathan Horton (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

David Krejci and Nathan Horton (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The triple-overtime loss in Game 1 of the Cup Final was no doubt a heartbreaker, but it was hardly a death blow to the 2013 Bruins. They’ve rallied back from bigger deficits, and they’re not going to quit just because they lost a hard-fought game on a twice-deflected shot.

However, if the injury Nathan Horton suffered in overtime is one that will keep him out for the rest of the series, the Bruins are, in all likelihood, done.

And to be sure, the injury was serious. It may not have come after a high-speed collision, but for a player to skate off the ice in the middle of a power play and not return in overtime of a Stanley Cup Final game, it can’t be a minor ailment.

With Horton going out, of course everybody was reminded that the Boston Bruins went 4-1 without Nathan Horton in 2011 to rally from a 2-0 series hole and win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. While that may seemingly provide a glimmer of hope for the Bruins should they be without him again, it’s just not the same. Two years ago, Rich Peverley jumped up to replace Horton and had two goals and an assist in his first two games. This year, Peverley has one goal and zero assists in 16 playoff games, while Horton has 13 goals, nine assists and an NHL-best plus-22 rating.

Tyler Seguin looked capable in filling in after Horton’s injury, but even if he plays well, it leaves the third line even more futile. The Bruins were already pushing it with Kaspars Daugavins in the lineup and Chris Kelly and Peverley serving as dead weight on the bottom two lines. If they’re forced to play without Horton, they’re essentially being asked to beat the most complete team in the NHL four out of six times with just two lines capable of scoring. Realistically, that’s not going to happen.

Of course, there was much, much more to the 112-minute affair, so let’s dig through as many leftover thoughts as possible from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 triple-overtime victory.

–The Bruins, for the most part, were the better team for the 52 minutes of extra ice hockey on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. But when you get a chance to score as easily as Kaspars Daugavins should have, well, you pretty much lose any opportunity for sympathy. I know Daugavins isn’t a man with loads of NHL experience, but how anyone could see this look at an open net with the puck on his stick …

… and then try to deke to the backhand rather than simply deposit the puck into the open net is hard to fathom.

It was not exactly a Bobby Orr moment for Daugavins.

Kaspars Daugavins (Photo by HH/Getty Images)

Kaspars Daugavins (Photo by HH/Getty Images)

–In case you missed what Phil Esposito had to say to the Toronto Sun about his feelings on this series: “You want to know the truth? This series doesn’t mean [expletive] to me. I have no feeling for these teams. There’s nothing emotional about it. They both got rid of me, traded me. So screw them.”

If I had the chance, I’d look Esposito in the eyes, throw on a silly accent and ask, “And what’s up your bum?!”

–I’ll admit I’m no NHL rules afcionado, but I have a sneaking suspicion that what Johnny Boychuk did to Jonathan Toews is a violation of the rules that govern this sport.

Johnny Boychuk and Jonathan Toews (Photos by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Johnny Boychuk and Jonathan Toews (Photos by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

–Claude Julien announced loud and clear after the game that he wanted everyone to know that he thinks Andrew Shaw embellishes in order to draw penalty calls.

“We know he’s an agitator,” Julien said of Shaw. “We know he’s good at embellishing, too, at times. We know all that stuff. We’ve done our research.”

It was interesting because it showed Claude clearly disagreed with the high-sticking call on Chara, when Shaw’s head snapped back pretty violently, but I really didn’t think that was an embellishment. I mean, I’ve never been cross-checked by Zdeno Chara up near my neck, but I bet it hurts, and I’d bet I might react in some way. In what exact way, I do not claim to know, but it probably would look worse than what Shaw did.

Plus, Adam McQuaid had gotten away with an accidental but blatant high stick on Dave Bolland, and the Blackhawks didn’t even score on the ensuing power play from the Chara hit. Also, if anyone put in a diving performance for the ages, it was Michal Handzus on the Horton penalty. So perhaps it wasn’t the best time for Claude to call out Shaw, but I guess Claude is making his political pleas to the refs early in this series.

–Tuukka Rask gave up four goals, but he was responsible for maybe one of them. And even then, it would have taken a magic act to glove that Brandon Saad laser.

Because Rask has to win the Cup to be as good as Tim Thomas in many folks’ eyes, here are the side-by-side comparisons of the two netminders through 17 playoff games.

Rask 2013: 12-5 record, .942 save percentage, 1.78 GAA
Thomas 2011: 11-6 record, .926 save percentage, 2.42 GAA

One angry fan called in to Toucher & Rich Thursday morning, stating he wasn’t a yahoo but that Rask needs to play better. Apparently, 59 saves isn’t good enough for that non-yahoo, who wanted Rask to save a shot off Andrew Ference’s skate as well as a twice-deflected shot from the blue line as well as a point-blank snipe as well as a one-time blast that was impossible to save.

“There was an issue yesterday about ‘When is Tuukka Rask going to get the same respect as Thomas?’ And my answer to that is, ‘When he starts to perform at the same level in the Finals.’ That’s going to be the measurement for him. Whether people like it or not, that’s going to be the measurement. Two years ago against Vancouver, Thomas gave up eight goals in seven games, and Tuukka Rask has already given up half that in one game. … He needs to do better.”

That is the type of ridiculous standard that Rask is held to by seemingly many fans in this town (or at least the ones who call in to yell on the radio), and it’s just wrong.

–Tyler Seguin still has just one goal this postseason, and aside from his power-play assist on Patrice Bergeron’s goal, he looked mostly lost during regulation. But I will say, he was noticeably better in the overtime periods, and it was as good as he’s looked in weeks. Nobody will care until he starts scoring goals, but continuing his play like that will have to lead to one eventually.

–Chris Kelly. Your postseason. Woof.

The newest $3 million fourth-line center skated nearly 28 minutes in Game 1. He registered zero goals, zero assists, and zero shots on net; he was a minus-3; and he lost 15 of his 22 faceoffs. He now has zero points in 261 minutes on the ice this postseason, a period in which he also has a minus-9 rating. No analysis necessary — the guy is a ghost.

With hockey players, you always have to be careful, because these guys are insane and tend to play through torn shoulders and other ridiculous injuries in the playoffs. If it comes out after the season that Kelly was playing through severe gout, temporary blindness, numb arms, vertigo and eight broken fingers, I wouldn’t be surprised. But for now, if he could at least win his faceoffs and drive to the net to perhaps make something happen, he might be able to help.

–On a similar note, I was amused to see how many hockey experts obviously knew Horton was dealing with a shoulder injury all playoffs long. It’s funny how nobody seemed able to mention that injury until after Horton left the game. “Oh yeah, well a lot of us knew that he had been dealing with an ‘upper-body injury’ so this is no surprise.” If you said that, you get a big old ohhhhhh gooooooood for you from me.

I won’t pretend to have known that Horton had a shoulder injury for the past couple of months, but I will say in all honesty I’ve noticed him avoiding body contact as often as possible. In situations where any other Bruins player would drive a body into the boards or absorb a heavy hit in order to make a play, I’ve seen Horton make a habit of skating by players or stepping out of harm’s way. I assumed it was mostly to protect his brain, which I wasn’t faulting him for at all, especially with a massive pay day coming up this summer. But if it was to preserve his shoulder, that would make more sense.

–If I am going to toot my own horn, it’s on Torey Krug. I said during and after Game 4 against Pittsburgh that Krug looked as bad as he had in his brief postseason run, and it manifested itself in a bad way in the Finals opener. Inserting Matt Bartkowski seems like a necessary move to make.

I don’t know what kind of car Krug drives, but he better careful. I think it’s due to turn back into a pumpkin any minute.

–There were too many “HOW DID THEY NOT SCORE?!” plays to count in that game. There was Zdeno Chara’s shot that deflected off Jaromir Jagr’s skate and then the post, followed by Bergeron sending a puck on net while Corey Crawford had his back to the shooter, which Crawford somehow managed to save. There was the Daugavins debacle, the Horton post, the Shawn Thornton-Daniel Paille 2-on-1, the stunning Crawford pad save on Seguin’s shot through Nick Leddy, and many more.

But to me, the most surprising near-miss that didn’t find the back of the net came when David Krejci, far and away the best player on the ice in Game 1, was unable to bury a loose puck in a mad scramble in front of the net 12:49 into the first overtime. Krejci collected Seguin’s rebound right in front of Crawford and had an opportunity to send a game-winning backhand into the net, but he took too long, and Dave Bolland lifted Krejci’s stick just as he began the motion for his shot.

Krejci seemed to be capable of doing whatever he wanted with the puck on his stick all night. I can’t believe he did not score there.

–When Milan Lucic was a young boy, he posed for a photograph with NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr.

When Milan Lucic was an adult, he absolutely trucked Jagr, his teammate, and has a new picture to hang on his bedroom wall.

Milan Lucic and Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Milan Lucic and Jaromir Jagr (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

You can see the fear in Lucic’s eyes, like, “Jaromir is going to be so mad at me.”

–In case you don’t pay attention to the weather, this happened in Chicago as the Cup Final began on Wednesday night:

Lightning in Chicago on June 12, 2013 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lightning in Chicago on June 12, 2013 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in Boston, this was happening:

Insane electric storm beats out a double rainbow nine times out of 10. We should have seen the Chicago victory coming.

–Any and all criticism of this team and this game has to come with the addendum that what those guys did on the ice was truly incredible. The Bruins blocked 40 shots. The Blackhawks attempted 132 shots. Rask made 59 saves. Crawford made 51. The two teams combined for 120 registered hits. Duncan Keith and Dennis Seidenberg logged nearly 49 minutes on the ice. Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference topped 45 minutes.

They “left it all out there” and then some. Hockey in the Stanley Cup Final is the most intense competition on earth. The same goes for overtime hockey in the playoffs, and this game had three periods of it.

The phrase “neither team deserved to lose” gets used far too often in sports these days, but it was never truer than it was early Thursday morning at the United Center.

The Bruins showed their championship-caliber resolve whent hey outworked and outplayed the Blackhawks in those overtime periods but still ended up losing. How they respond in Game 2 will tell you just how strong that championship mettle can be.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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