Hit On Horton Changes Complexion of Cup Final

Updated: June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am by Dan Berlin

It’s Game on. Finally.

It took the Boston Bruins until Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to wake up and show they’re in this series to win it. Following two listless games in Vancouver to fall behind 2 games to none, the Bruins bounced back with a resounding 8-1 throttling of the Canucks, swinging the momentum of the series squarely in Boston’s favor heading into Game 4.

The Beantowners have Vancouver Canucklehead Aaron Rome to thank for that.

Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton 5 minutes in to the first period – a cheapshot that sent the Bruins’ first-liner off on a stretcher, and ultimately out of the playoffs with a severe concussion – clearly woke these sleeping Bears from their hibernation.

The headshot delivered by Rome drew immediate comparisons to a similar incident in Game 6 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, when Devils’ Defenceman Scott Stevens crushed Anaheim’s Paul Kariya with a cheapshot of his own as he blindsided the defenseless Ducks’ captain with an elbow to the head well after he delivered a pass at the New Jersey blueline. Ironically, Stevens didn’t even receive a penalty on the play, as old school hockey mentalities like “keep your head up, kid” still ruled the league back then.

It’s a whole different story in today’s NHL.

Rome, who received a 5-minute interference major penalty and game misconduct on the play, was levied a 4-game suspension for his actions by current league disciplinarian Mike Murphy. But aside from the short-term emotional lift that Rome’s hit and Horton’s subsequent departure gave the Bruins, Rome’s absence in the Canucks’ lineup for the remainder of the Final leaves an already thin Vancouver blueline even more shorthanded. Already missing Dan Hamhuis with a “middle body” injury suffered in Game 1 of the Final, Keith Ballard or Chris Tanev will now be pressed into duty, putting further pressure on blueliners’ Alexander Edler, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa to log big minutes. And if Game 3 was any indication of what this could mean for Vancouver’s Top 4 D-men (they were a combined minus-8), then the Canucks could be in even bigger trouble than originally thought.

The fallout from Rome’s hit also raises additional pressing questions for the Canucks as the series progresses. Can Roberto Luongo rebound from a humiliating 8-1 blowout loss? And will the Sedins, complete with bullseyes on their backs now, be able to respond in a more physical series?

Don’t kid yourself. Rome’s actions have changed the entire complexion of the series. What initially appeared to be a quick finish in four or five in favor of the Canucks all of the sudden looks like a Final that could go the distance. And if karma has its way, the Bruins could now be the team holding the edge to ultimately emerge as the Stanley Cup winner this time around.

OTHER HITS: Former NHL enforcer Tie Domi was shown during the broadcast taking in Game 3 in the stands with Actor/Producer friend Mark Wahlberg. For Tie, who sits 3rd all-time in NHL penalty minutes, Rome’s hit must’ve brought back memories of his own cheapshot elbow on Devils’ D Scott Niedermayer with mere seconds left in Game 4 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinal between Toronto and New Jersey. That play ultimately turned the momentum of that series around in favour of NJ, who eventually won in seven games over Domi’s Maple Leafs.

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