Boston Bruins

Haggerty: How Bruins will replace Horton

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Haggerty: How Bruins will replace Horton

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Reality is setting in for the Bruins that theyve lost their Game 7 hero, Nathan Horton, for the rest of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Horton was released from Massachusetts General Hospital on Tuesday after suffering a severe concussion when he was rocked by a late hit from Aaron Rome in Game 3 Monday night, and the Bruins now have the unenviable task of replacing their No. 1 right wing. While the Bruins have better depth at the forward position than they did last season, it doesnt take too many brain cells to remember last years offensively-challenged bunch in the year in between Phil Kessel and Horton.

Horton finished with 34 goals in 101 games spread out over the regular season and playoffs, and that's something the Bruins simply cant pick up and replace with one single player. Worst of all, the 26-year-old had blossomed into an ice-water-veined playoff performer, becoming the only NHL player in Stanley Cup history to pot a pair of Game 7 game-winning goals in the same playoff run.

Though Horton had been scoreless against the Canucks after appearing to bang his knee in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the last round, he was still one of the team's best offensive threats.

I thought his second half of the season was really good, said coach Claude Julien. His compete level was extremely good game in, game out, played with an edge, which a lot of people said he wasn't capable of doing. He showed that on a regular basis."

Julien added: We just lost a real important part of our hockey team.

Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley both alternated shifts on right wing in the second and third period in Hortons absence, and they are the two main candidates to potentially take up residency on the top line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.

Peverley brings speed and some offensive creativity to the first line if hes the choice, but it would appear Ryder would be the more logical choice given his similarity to Horton in terms of skill set. Like Horton, he has a deadly shot and the ability to heat up during the playoffs.

Consider Ryder a smaller, less physical version of Horton around the net, but just as deadly with his snap shot. In all Ryder has 15 goals and 32 points in 45 career postseason games with the Bruins, and he could certainly find a way to channel his goal-scorer's touch with Bostons top forwards.

Ryder didnt know or didnt want to admit to knowing the plan for Game 3, but he knows more will be asked of him with Horton out.

Horty is a big part of our team. He's been huge for us all season in the playoffs, said Ryder. We're definitely going to miss him. I'm not sure what is going to happen. I played with Krejci before and with Lucic on and off at times. Yeah, I feel comfortable there. I'm not sure what Claude has planned.

But if I get put in that position, I'll have to step it up and make sure I help those guys out as much as I can. I'm not Nathan Horton, but I can try to do what I can out there.

If Ryder falters or goes through one of his sleepy stretches, then Peverley would be the other easy choice to pair with the two remaining members of Bostons No. 1 line.

With Horton and Ryder likely lining up on the right side, Lucic took the set of circumstances as another clarion call to arms. The Bruins need Lucic to morph into the dominant power forward he was all regular season when he scored 30 goals, and now would be the perfect time for it to happen. Hes jumped in and out of effectiveness through the playoffs, but Lucic knows there are only four games left to empty the entire tank.

Its 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. Its tough. Its a big loss. Hes 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 Im going to have to step up without him.

Ryder and Peverley are both great players. Peverley last year had 55 points, so hes shown that he can produce in this league. Ryder has scored 30 goals a couple of times and hes scored almost 150 goals in this league, so hes 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 were missing with Nathan.

The second set of dominoes in the Horton chain reaction will be a possible reunion of the Chris KellyTyler SeguinPeverley trio on the third line a combination with speed and offensive upside that would have to bear down to win battles against Vancouvers sandpaper third line.

With Horton gone now, there's a pretty good chance you're going to see Seguin in the lineup again. He's a good player for us. Yesterday was a tough decision to make him a healthy scratch, said Julien.

The lineup changes would seem to be obvious ones for the Bs coaching staff with Horton no longer an option, but that doesnt mean it will be easy to replace a power forward with a scorers touch. Bostons job gets much tougher against the Canucks without Horton in the trenches, and it will truly be a group effort for the Black and Gold if theyre able to pull things out after their first catastrophic injury of the postseason.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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Morning Skate: Why NHL players hate analytics

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Morning Skate: Why NHL players hate analytics

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while already hating my fantasy football team just a couple of weeks into things.

*Interesting look at why NHL players hate analytics and why most of them don’t even care what Corsi is or how it’s tabulated.

*Interesting piece on the play-by-play for Bruins radio, where over 200 applicants threw their hat in the ring to replace Dave Goucher as the voice of the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ryan Johnston is one of the finalists and has great on the call on Tuesday night, so count me as rooting for him to wind up getting the gig he’s worked his whole life for.

*This is actually a fairly thoughtful and well-researched blog post on the Blackhawks logo and why it’s unfair to claim that it’s racist using the same arguments as for the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Indians.

*It’s unfortunate, but an arena conflict between the Flames and the city of Calgary is the same kind of thing that’s forced franchises to move in other NHL cities.

*Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance about Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Sheahan and the bond he has with one Michigan family and one special little boy.

*Count the Winnipeg Jets among the teams that are going to have former NHL referees stop by training camp to give them the lowdown on slashing and face-offs. I think everybody understands the slashing enforcement, but this face-off stuff is ridiculous.

*For something completely different: I’ve enjoyed “Billy on the Street” while it’s been on TruTV, but it looks like it’s finding a new home soon.