BOSTON - From a pure hockey standpoint, once the length of Aaron Rome's punishment has been argued ad nauseum, the Boston Bruins, behind closed doors, will feel they have been screwed.
Not by the fact the Canucks defenceman has been slapped with a four-game suspension, one that will keep him out for the remainder of the playoffs. No argument there.
But this is the Stanley Cup final. A chance to bring hockey's Holy Grail to Boston for the first time in 39 years.
And now they'll have to accomplish that feat, one that will require winning three of the next four games, without Nathan Horton, who will not play again in this post-season because of a "serious concussion."
The same Nathan Horton who is second in team playoff scoring with 17 points.
The same Nathan Horton whose dramatic Game 7 overtime goal in Boston's first-round series against the hated Montreal Canadiens allowed the Bruins to live another post-season day.
The same Nathan Horton whose third period goal in the seventh and deciding game against Tampa Bay propelled the Bruins to their first final appearance in 21 years.
All because of Aaron Rome.
Aaron Rome for Nathan Horton. Hands up, those of you hockey poolies who would make that swap.
No takers? Didn't think so.
Bruins coach Claude Julien and his players basically took the high road when asked about the Rome suspension, generally saying it was a league decision. But while speaking with French reporters in his native tongue, Julien flashed a glimpse of his true feelings concerning the situation.
"I don't want to be a hypocrite but I don't think this is a big blow for Vancouver," Julien said in French, referring to the Canucks' loss of Rome.
Julien has a point.
No offence to Rome, but this is a deep Canucks team that can easily plug in Keith Ballard or Christopher Tanev and not miss a beat.
On the Bruins side, replacing Horton will not be as easy.
Indeed, the spotlight now shifts to 2010 second overall pick Tyler Seguin, who was a healthy scratch in Game 3 Monday.
After watching Horton wheeled off on a stretcher courtesy of Rome's late hit in the first period of Boston's 8-1 win, Seguin was asked if would play in Game 4.
"It would seem that way," he said.
The kid has shown flashes of brilliance in these playoffs. Now he'll get another chance.
The encouraging news for the Bruins is that Horton was released from Massachusetts General Hospital Tuesday.
"He texted me and wished me a happy birthday," teammate Milan Lucic said. "That's a good sign."
As for Rome, he was, as expected, devastated by the decision. Keep this in mind: he is not a dirty player.
-I want to express my concern for Nathan's well being and wish him a quick and full recovery," Rome said in a released statement. "I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury I am well aware of its serious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it.
"I will not take away my teammates' focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in future."
What really bothers the Canucks is that Rome himself was the victim of a questionable hit recently, leaving him with a concussion. The young defenceman was smeared by San Jose's Jamie McGinn in Game 3 of the Western Conference final, a play the league ultimately decided was not worthy of a suspension.
"Romer got killed against San Jose and nothing happened," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said. "Now he's done something and gets four games.
"I don't know ..."
Rome's camp reportedly plans to appeal the suspension.
In the meantime, the Stanley Cup final continues Wednesday with two teams that feel they have been hard done by.
Truth be told, no one has been more hard done by in this than Nathan Horton.