By Steve Silverman
(CBS) — The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have been called mirror images of each other because both teams roll four lines, have active defenses and superb goaltending.
There’s no shortage of great players – such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks and Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins – but both of these teams are reliant on their depth.
The Bruins’ depth has taken a pretty big hit in their last three games, and that could have a huge influence throughout the rest of the series.
Fourth-line center and ace penalty killer Gregory Campbell was lost for the rest of the playoffs when he blocked an Evgeni Malkin shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final and he broke his leg.
Nathan Horton, the NHL’s leading plus-minus player in the postseason, left Game 1 after a slight collision with Niklas Hjalmarsson in the first overtime and did not return. Horton has an upper-body injury, according to the Bruins.
However, WEEI.com blogger D.J. Bean says Horton has a chronic shoulder problem. He will almost certainly need surgery in the offseason. Horton initially injured the shoulder in a fight with Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla late in the regular season, and he has been playing with pain and discomfort since.
Horton’s shoulder is vulnerable to slipping out of its socket – as it did Wednesday night – at any time.
The Bruins training staff popped shoulder back in position after the game, but Horton could not return.
Horton practiced Friday and he will almost certainly try to give it a go in Game 2 tonight, but how long he lasts and his overall effectiveness is quite questionable.
But with injuries starting to mount, the team’s chemistry and balance may start to impact them against the Blackhawks.
The Bruins would almost certainly get by the New York Rangers or Ottawa Senators without Campbell and an injured Horton, but now they are playing against a much more powerful and balanced team. Each injury diminishes them and the Blackhawks clearly have the personnel to take advantage of any weakness.
If Horton can’t play, expect Tyler Seguin to take his place on the top line. Seguin is the team’s most gifted skater and a brilliant talent. However, he’s in a deep slump and has scored just one postseason goal.
The Bruins would likely move a Swedish import named Carl Soderberg into the lineup if Horton is unable to play. Soderberg was the best player in the Swedish Elite League this year and he was signed late in the regular season.
Boston head coach Claude Julien played Soderberg in six games late in the regular season and he flashed his speed, moves and instincts, but he did not show enough to dress in any playoff games.
The Blackhawks have scouting reports on Soderberg, but they really don’t know a thing about him. It’s unlikely Soderberg would be a difference maker, but who would have thought that Bruins defenseman Torey Krug would score four goals in five games against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the conference semifinal round?
The Blackhawks are in much better position heading into Game 2. They don’t have to rely on fill-ins like Kaspars Daugavins, who tripped while contemplating a game-winning goal in triple overtime, or an unknown Swedish import. The Blackhawks have a 1-0 lead in the series and they can go out and play their game with confidence.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.