- James Murphy, Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- With eight goals and 17 points, Nathan Horton is second on the Boston Bruins in both categories during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has three game-winning goals, including two overtime winners and two series-clinchers.
On Tuesday, Horton was ruled out for the rest of the Cup finals after sustaining a severe concussion on a vicious open-ice hit from Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome, who was suspended by the NHL for four games.
The Bruins opened the floodgates and beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, a Vezina Trophy candidate, eight times in an 8-1 rout in Game 3 on Monday, with all eight of those goals coming after the Horton injury. So based on the way Boston's depth has performed throughout the season and playoffs, the Bruins believe they can step up in Horton's absence.
In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, center Patrice Bergeron suffered a mild concussion from an open-ice hit by Philadelphia Flyers winger Claude Giroux. Bergeron missed the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rookie Tyler Seguin stepped in, and in his first two career postseason games, he amassed six points, including a four-point effort to lead the Bruins to a 6-5 win in Game 2.
In the first round against the Montreal Canadiens, the third line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder played a major role in the seven-game series win. As Ryder pointed out, the Bruins' depth has played a major role in the team's playoff success.
"We have a lot of depth on this team and last time when Bergy got hurt, [Seguin] came in and did a great job," Ryder said.
"It's a good thing that we have that on our team and guys know that when somebody goes down, they can step it up. That's a big reason why we had so much success this year. When guys went down, everybody would step up and help us out, and we need that now."
Even prior to the Horton injury, the Bruins' depth was on display in Game 3 as winger Shawn Thornton was called upon to provide some grit and energy, something the Bruins sorely lacked in their losses in Games 1 and 2, when Thornton was a healthy scratch.
Thornton did just that and even drew the penalty that led to a second-period, power-play goal by Mark Recchi. Seguin was the odd man out Monday, but on Tuesday coach Claude Julien credited both Thornton and Seguin for the way they came in and got the job done when they were called upon after being scratched for numerous games.
"I think both of those guys did a great job of coming in," Julien said. "We know what Tyler did in those first two games. He got us right back in the series with the way he played, the goals that he scored were huge goals.
"The way the series had gone so far in the first couple of games, with the line matchups and everything else, I thought it
was important to get Shawn into our lineup. I really commend him for the job he did. He certainly changed things a lot as far as our identity, what he brought to the table. People can look at him for his aggressiveness, but he also created that penalty that led to a goal on our power play. He did his job and he did it well."
Now Seguin will be called upon again, and based on the way the 19-year-old has handled being a healthy scratch earlier in the playoffs, Julien is confident he will do just fine when he comes back in Game 4. Julien commended his staff as well as Seguin for the communication level between the player and coaches.
"I think people from the outside don't really see what's going on the inside, but we've been extremely supportive, we've been extremely encouraging with him," Julien said. "We realize he's a very young individual that is playing in the Stanley Cup final right now. [There's] a lot to chew on at times.
"We need to be patient. He also needs to be patient. He's also taking the opportunity of every advantage we're giving him. It's the understanding he knows we're doing the best thing we can for him. He trusts us. I think that's made it a good relationship between him, the coaches and the rest of the organization.
"We like his upside. He's going to be a tremendous player. We could give a ton of examples of players that have gone through the same thing as he has coming into the league as young players, having to learn through some of the things, grow through it."
Seguin most likely will be slotted on the third line with Kelly and Ryder, the players he was lined up with when he was in the lineup before. Meanwhile, expect Julien to put Peverley up on the first line with Lucic and Krejci, keeping Brad Marchand, Bergeron and Recchi together, and leaving the fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Thornton intact.
Ryder said he would welcome the opportunity to play with Seguin again as they had some solid chemistry.
"I have no idea what [Julien's] plans are because we didn't skate today and I guess we'll see tomorrow," Ryder said. "But [Seguin] has a lot of speed and he knows how to use it. I have no idea what it is, we just seem to work well together."
The Bruins are hoping they continue to work well together and that the forward group as a whole continues to provide enough depth to overcome the absence of Horton.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.