VANCOUVER, B.C – The Stanley Cup final is almost upon us, the big bad Boston Bruins from New England face the heavily favoured west coast Vancouver Canucks. This is a Stanley Cup Finals matchup that true hockey fans that know the history of the game can appreciate. Both teams have a long and painful history of Stanley Cup final failures and both teams have a rabid fan base that will go toe to toe to support their team. Let’s breakdown the matchup to see who will prevail.
Forwards: The Bruins are led by their top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton have scored 21 goals in 18 playoff games. The Bruins will have to depend on big contributions from their top trio because the Bruins aren’t a deep scoring team. Secondary scoring will be very key for Boston. The second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and 43 year-old Mark Recchi need to find the net in a huge way if Boston is to win. Tyler Seguin could have a big impact on the series if Bruins Coach Claude Julien gives him enough ice time. The young 19 year-old has shown great promise and skill during the post-season. Seguin could be just what Boston needs to succeed if he get’s proper linemates and ice time. The 3rd and 4th lines for Boston have to out hit, out work, and out play Vancouver’s 3rd and 4th lines. Boston should dress Shawn Thornton. Thornton would be the perfect pest to unleash on the Vancouver Canuck forwards. If Coach Julien plays, him Shawn Thornton will make his presence felt. Vancouver led the NHL with 262 goals this season and with two 41 goal scorers you know they can put the puck in the net. The Sedin twins will face the Boston defensive duo of Zdeno Chara, and Dennis Seidenberg. With Chara being 6’9 he will need to crush the twins so they become ineffective and injured. When the Sedins have the puck it’s not the twin with the puck that is most dangerous it’s the twin without the puck that Boston needs to cover, and check. The Sedins will make 3, or 4 passes before shooting. If Boston can figure this out quickly and play them tough this might be a long series. The line of Chris Higgins, Ryan Kesler, and Mason Raymond can fly. They’re speed and ability to turn on the jets will allow them to create scoring opportunities out of nowhere. Boston’s other four defenders will need to be on alert when the second like for the Canucks is on the ice. Vancouver’s 3rd line has been spectacular this post-season. Raffi Torres, Maxim Lapierre, and the “Great Dane” Jannik Hansen have forchecked, played physical and have even chipped with goals. The unsung trio has helped Vancouver immensely and will have to come up big against Boston’s Bergeron, Horton, Krejci, and Marchand. If they can frustrate and throw their weight around Vancouver will be skating circles around the Bruins. The 4th line for Vancouver play’s sparingly. It seems Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault has no confidence in whoever is playing on the 4th line. In the series clinching overtime game against San Jose nobody from Vancouver’s 4th line had a shift after the second period. The Canucks will roll with three lines throughout the series, and if Boston can wear the Canucks down their strategy of playing all four lines could prove to be a great strength.
Defense:When it comes to the Vancouver Canucks defense they just don’t rest. Five of the six Canuck defenders jump up into the play with extreme regularity. Boston will have to keep an eye out for Christian Ehroff, Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo, and Kevin Bieksa who has already put 5 pucks past opposition goaltenders this post-season. All of the above can hammer the puck and pick corners so the man affectionately called “Timmy” better be ready. If the Canucks D pinches at the wrong time Boston’s forwards have to capitalize on turnovers. The Canucks D will need to be hit hard by the like’s of Lucic, Campbell, Paille, Kelly, and Thornton. If the Bruins forward’s can make the Canuck defenders worry about playing the puck in their own end that should lead to great scoring opportunities on Roberto Luongo. On the back-end the Bruins are led by their enormous captain “Big Z” Zdeno Chara. Chara will have to play mean, angry, and ferocious during the finals if Boston is going to win the cup. Chara is the type of player that can change and influence a playoff series with one big play. If you’re unfamiliar with the rest of the Bruins defenseman it’s alright a lot of people don’t know who Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Tomas Kaberle, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid are. If any of these players can chip in with a huge play it would be very beneficial to the Bruins. However Ference, Boychuk and McQuaid managed to combine for only 9 goals, and 46 points during the regular season. They definitely don’t have the will and skill of Bobby Orr running through their veins.
Goaltending: Flint, Michigan native Tim Thomas is making his first ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance on Wednesday night. At the other end of the ice Montreal native Roberto Luongo will be tending the net for Vancouver. Both Goalies have been on top of their game all season. As a result both have been nominated for the Vezina Trophy which is awarded to the most outstanding goalie during the NHL regular season. Whichever goalie can stand on their heads the longest and come up with the bigger saves will go a long way to ensure their name is engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup. Roberto Luongo is younger goalie, and has a 2010 Olympic Gold Medal under his belt. Tim Thomas is no slouch either. Thomas won the Vezina Trophy in 2009, and this season he set an NHL record for lowest NHL save percentage% with .938%. For Boston to score on Luongo they need to try wrap-arrounds and they should also get the puck in Loungo’s feet where he is very uncomfortable and susceptible to soft goals. Luongo will stop what he can see but if Boston can shoot high glove side that could be his weakness. Luongo is a terrible puck handler who get’s bored and wanders behind the net. For the sanity of Canuck fans he needs to stay in his net and focus on stopping pucks. Tim Thomas is a very unorthodox goalie, but his playing style works for him. If the Canucks can get him swimming all over his crease they will easily turn on the red light. Thomas has been known to give up early goals in playoff games this post-season. If the Canucks can score early like Tampa Bay did, Boston will be forced to open up the neutral zone and attack which doesn’t suit they’re style of play. During these playoffs Tim Thomas has been outstanding or horrible in net. For Bruins fans in New England they’re hopeful the Thomas that knows how to stop pucks will show up at Rogers Arena tonight at 8 Eastern.
Special Teams: The series may come down to which team has the most potent power play, and penalty kill. Boston’s power play has been atrocious throughout the playoffs. The Bruins power play has an 8% success rate. Boston has a better chance at finding fugitive Whitey Bulger than figuring out why the Bruins power play is so awful. The Bruins penalty killing isn’t so special either. If the Bruins start running around taking dumb penalties the green men will start dancing and the Canucks will ruin the Bruins with their fierce power play. The Canucks penalty killing was hit or miss against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks started off 5 for 5 before Vancouver shutdown Joe Thornton and the toothless Sharks. It’s in Boston’s best interest to keep the game at 5 skaters a piece. Boston scored 10 more 5 on 5 goals than Vancouver this season. If the referee’s swallow their whistles and let the boys play that favours the Boston Bruins.
The Boston Bruins are an original six NHL franchise. With Shore, Orr, Esposito, Neely, Bucyk, Schmidt, O’Reilly, and Bourque hanging from the rafters of the TD Banknorth Garden the Bruins have had a lot of championships, and great history. The Vancouver Canucks are a franchise that hasn’t won anything worth celebrating. Sure, winning the Presidents Trophy is an awesome accomplishment but that’s not why they lace up their skates. Nothing but a Stanley Cup will be acceptable for the long and suffering Vancouver Canuck fans. Vancouver is just too strong in every category. A lot of big things have to go exceptionally right for the Boston Bruins to have a parade down Boylston Street, and I just don’t see it. This is the year Vancouver Canuck fans can rejoice and celebrate because the Stanley Cup is coming home to beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Prediction Vancouver in 5