Stanley Cup Final Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs Boston Bruins

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Well, here we are. The final four to seven games of the 2010-11 NHL season. One more set of games to decide which team was best in the league this season. One more series before GMs finally run out of excuses for procrastinating their off-season wheeling and dealing. One more series before hockey withdrawal finally sets in for all of us.

It’s tough to really put what many people are feeling about this series in words. For one team, it’s the culmination of a long plight spanning several seasons to finally earn themselves a Stanley Cup, after years of being Canada’s most consistent team. The Vancouver Canucks haven’t been here in many years, but they’ve been predicted to be here for a couple of seasons now. Well, they finally made it, despite the odds, despite the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators, and the San Jose Sharks. Despite the pundits and the naysayers, the Luongo and Sedin haters, they finally made it. But will the finals be enough for the President’s Cup Winning team?

On the other side of the ice, it’s the Boston Bruins. They haven’t seen a Stanley Cup final for even longer than the Canucks, twice the time in fact. Few were expecting them to make it this far, or even past the first round against the Canadiens. Even fewer thought they could beat the Flyers, and despite sweeping them, many were still against them versus the Lightning. Well, they too beat the odds, the naysayers, the pundits, surpassed any hitting or fan abusing controversies and made the finals. Their franchise is one of the oldest in the NHL, and one that has been denied for many years, decades, even. Their owner is aging and their fans are restless. As obvious as the answer to the question in the last paragraph was, we must ask it again. Is a cup final enough for this team to continue on their same path?

It may sound silly to ask that, but the truth is, for one team, it will have to be enough. There can only be one Stanley Cup Champion for 2011. The real question is, which team wants it more? Which team can overcome the fatigue and the emotions of an incredibly long season and take the most coveted prize in all of hockey?

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Prax’s Take:
There’s no way I can go 0-for-4 against the Bruins, right? I’ve said it three times in the last two months, and I’ll say it again. I’m a Habs fan, and while I appreciate what the Bruins have accomplished this season – when they’re actually playing hockey and not trying to kill people – there’s no way I can cheer for them. It’s just the rivalry. It’s the utter difference between me, and between them.

And from my (severely biased) perspective, they’re sort of lucky to be in the Cup Final. They were lucky to beat the Canadiens after everything that happened between those two teams and in the opening-round series. They were lucky that the heavily favored Flyers shat the bed in round 2, and that their goaltending problems finally caught up to them. And they were lucky to beat the Lightning, who seemed to be on a mission this year. But you can’t chalk it ALL up to luck. Like I said, I respect their skill level and what they’ve accomplished.

But enough about the Bruins. In my opinion, this series is all about the Canucks. This is their season. This is the season they swept nominations in nearly all the award categories – team-based or individual – the year they were the best regular season team, the year their management would have been in trouble if they couldn’t get deep in the playoffs. And despite all the adversity, they’ve delivered every step of the way. How can they fail now?

Both teams are great. Both teams have stellar goaltending, All-Star players, and determined (former Hab!) coaches. Both teams will steal games from each other, and every game, or just about, will be close. But the Canucks will steal 2 more than the Bruins in this case. It’s just simply meant to be.

Just like I’ve gone 0-3 against the Bruins, I’ve gone 3-0 against the Canucks. Guess which streak I think will be broken?
Prediction: Canucks in 6

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Jonathan Szekeres’ Take:
To all those saying the Sharks, Blackhawks, or Predators would beat the Canucks, i would like to take this opportunity to cordially say, suck it. Vancouver has gotten to where they are based on strong defensive depth, two terrific scoring lines, and solid goaltending. However, so have the Boston Bruins, for the most part. Tim Thomas hasn't been outstanding, but neither has Roberto Luongo. Luongo has been better, and at times he has looked unbeatable, but he still lets in too many soft goals. That will have to change on Hockey's biggest stage.

Ryan Kesler looks to have a lower body injury, but with the return of Manny Malhotra, thats right folks, he's cleared to play, Kesler will not have to worry about taking as many draws, and depending on how many minutes Malhotra does get, he can focus on more of an offensive game. Kevin Bieksa is an Conn Smythe Candidate and can be the difference maker in the series. Expect Zdeno Chara to play every shift against the Sedins, leaving lots of open ice for the Kesler line.

I think Vancouver takes it, and after 40 years, delivers a cup to the tortured souls of British Columbia.
Prediction: Canucks in 6

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Around The Checking Line:

Kyle Busch: I was going to be ballsy and say four straight, but that rarely happens in the Finals, and Timmy Thomas will likely steal a game. I am really not impressed with Boston. It was the same with Vancouver until I saw them play San Jose, and immediately I thanked God that Detroit didn't make it to Van City. They would have got killed four straight. The Canucks seem to be the real deal and are playing like a championship team. Boston, on the other hand, hasn't shown much that has convinced me that they can beat Vancouver four times in seven games.

I have some interesting facts when it comes to the Finals:

  1. 1. The last three goalies to wear number one have lost in the Finals (Ray Emery - 2007, Arturs Irbe - 2002, Kirk McLean - 1994). There might be more but I didn't get that far. Watch out Roberto!
  2. 2. Since 2004 there has been at least a Canadian or Original Six team in the Finals every season, we have both in 2011. Those teams are 2-4 in that time span (Detroit and Chicago are the only two to win. Every Canadian team has lost).
  3. 3. When the Olympics are on North American soil in a city that has an NHL team, the host city's NHL team won the Cup the next year (Lake Placid 1932 - Rangers 1933, Montreal 1976 - Canadiens 1977, Lake Placid 1980 - Islanders 1981, 1988 Calgary - 1989 Flames, Vancouver 2010- Canucks 2011?). The only time it didn't happen was 1984 in Los Angeles and the Kings didn't win in 85. Atlanta in 1997 doesn't count because Atlanta didn't have a team. So some fun facts! But Vancouver still gets it done.

Prediction: Canucks in 5

Evan Pivnick: First of all, when was the last time two Vezina nominated goaltenders faced each other in the Stanley Cup Final? This is going to be a pretty exciting series. Vancouver has all of the energy going into this series, in my opinion. I just don't see the Bruins powering down a team that has been so dominant all season long.Prediction: Canucks in 6

Andy Veilleux: Boston will take the series if they can continue to play with the intensity and physicality they have shown so far in the series. They will also need Tim Thomas to continue his stellar play. Vancouver will need their big guns to score consistently, and will need to out-skate the Bruins if they hope to win. Luongo will also need to play consistently-strong hockey between the pipes. Boston's power play needs a boost, but it has been the only glaring flaw in their game thus far in. I have more faith in Thomas than Luongo, and believe he can pull the Bruins through the gruelling series it should be.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Paul Cardarelli: Lord Stanley's Mug is up for grabs as the Bruins and Canucks meet in a true clash of the titans. This series pits two Vezina candidates, the best defensive team in each Conference and two formidable and powerful offenses against one another. The difference? The Presidents Trophy winning Canucks are the team that still has something to prove. The great regular season and the deep playoff run will all go for not if Luongo, Henrik, Daniel and company aren't able to hoist the Stanley Cup. Vancouver is the best team on paper in the NHL, look for them to assert that dominance one last time and exploit Boston's pitiful special teams as the Holy Grail of hockey will once again fly north of the border.
Prediction: Canucks in 6

Greg Duley: This series does intrigue me as both teams have amazing depth, Vancouver just has that extra edge against Boston. Vancouver has essentially every kind of player a team needs to succeed and a defense core thats stepping up at the right time. For Boston to win this series, Thomas is going to have to revert to being Tim for the regular season and be unbeatable, if not this could get ugly for Boston. Boston does have the defense to shut down the Sedins, you cant forget about Kesler as if you focus on the Sedins he will kill you and visa versa. Vancouver got it rolling against San Jose and should keep rolling to the franchises first ever cup win.
Prediction: Canucks in 5

Lowell Williamson: Karma is bound to catch up with the Bruins. The Cup comes back to Canada
Prediction: Canucks in 5

Larry D’Angelo: The Boston Bruins have the slight edge in this series, for two reasons, Size and Tim Thomas. The Bruins will need to use their size to slow down the Canucks, keep Kessler from the front of the net and cause major traffic in front of Luongo. Luongo can be had in the mental game and if the Bruins use their size to screen him and get under his skin he will lose his composure. If and when the Bruins put Chara down in front of Luongo it will frustrate him even more. Tim Thomas has the ability to steal a series and his timely spectacular saves give this average Bruins team the lift they need to overcome breakdowns in their game.
Prediction: Bruins in 6

Jordan Kuhns: I've picked against the Canucks in every single round. Now I know what they are capable of. As TSN's Bob McKenzie put it, the Canucks have elite speed in transition, and the Bruins do not. That will be a key factor in the series. If the Canucks can win more battles for loose pucks with their speed, the Bruins will need to rely solely on Tim Thomas. We saw that Thomas has been prone to a bad game every once in a while. The Canucks have the pieces to get in his kitchen and make him mad, putting him off his game. For the Bruins to be successful in this series, they need contributions from every line, just like the Canucks get. I seriously can't expect that to happen, so I get the feeling the Vancouver Canucks are going to hoist Lord Stanley a little early in this series.
Prediction: Canucks in 5

Alicia Sprenkle: The Vancouver Canucks are exactly where they should be after winning the President's Trophy: playing hockey into the month of June. It's something that doesn't happen often, but the Canucks have consistently been one of the best teams in the NHL since October. It's hard to find a reason to bet against them at this point because of how solid they have remained for such a long time. But Boston has been impressive as well. With Tim Thomas between the pipes, anything is possible for the Bruins. In the end, the edge would seem to be with the Canucks. The Bruins can certainly bring the offense, but the bigger name guys for Vancouver are going to be hard to stop.
Prediction: Canucks in 6

Rob McGowan: So here we are...the Cup Finals; what we have all been waiting for. The Canucks have been one of the best teams in the league in recent past and finally get to put themselves up for the ultimate test of trying to win hockey's greatest prize. Meanwhile, the Bruins were able to hold off the surging Tampa Bay Lightning and make their way to the final round. It hasn't been an easy road for either team, but all of that now comes to an end. I previously predicted the Sharks to defeat the Canucks with goaltending being the difference maker. But Luongo was stellar, getting hot at the right time. He will have to continue that type of play against the Bruins as Tim Thomas has been nothing short of spectacular for the vast majority of these playoff games. This is another series that has seven games written all over it. But I am going to go with the favorite and pick the Canucks to win this year's Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Canucks in 7

Chuck Gaston Jr.: All of the offensive talent seems to be wearing the blue and while Vancouver has impressed me so much, Im going with the tight checking Boston Bruins. While I am not a fan of either team, I have to choose the Bruins. I thought they managed to stop the strongest offense in the playoffs and their big guns(includes some smaller fellas) have come through in every clutch situation. Nathan Horton is impressing everyone with his first playoff appearance and while Henrik leads the league, Daniel has underachieved. I think the Bruins play a similar style to Nashville, but have a stronger offensive upside. This isn't going to be a quick series and Im taking the Bruins in 7.
Prediction: Bruins in 7

Owen Durkin: This is the final I could never have predicted. Never did I expect Detroit to falter against San Jose, and I honestly expected the Sharks to victimize Luongo, who was generally average, with the occasional big night in the western final. Both teams have depth, and boast a number of players who can score from a variety of positions, but for me, the Canucks blueline will be the better of the two, especially if Bieksa can continue to contribute like he has. The ‘Nucks cycle mixed with the B’s (at times) questionable mobility in the back end could mean big problems, and a ton of work for Timmy Thomas. He’s the caveat in all of this, because he can steal a series as much as Luongo can sabotage one. Bobby Lou just has to be Chris Osgood-good for the Canucks to win. If it’s down to a matter of special teams and defensive production, the ‘Nucks have the edge. Thomas is in the battle of his professional life, and will be the series MVP in my estimation. Kesler, if healthy, will make his life hell, and will continue to frustrate opponents with his gamesmanship as much as his production on the scoreboard. This is going to be the dogfight of the year, and there will be casualties on both sides. With so much coming down to success in the dot, I give Vancouver the edge.
Prediction: Canucks in 7

Quinn Mell-Cobb: Boston's infamous defense core will cause problems for the potent scoring depth of Vancouver's lineup, but in the end, the Canucks will prevail for their first championship in 40 seasons of existence.
Prediction: Canucks in 7

Micheal Aldred: I know everyone is happy to see a Canadian team in the finals, but the Boston Bruins just have way more Canadians on there for me not to take notice of. When it comes down to it, the Bruins helped my Leafs land a second round pick as part of the Tomas Kaberle trade, and Kaberle has done absolutely nothing for it. It would only be appropriate that Kaberle somehow win a Stanley Cup by doing absolutely nothing. Any other outcome would be illegal, ridiculous and down right unacceptable!
Prediction: Canucks in 5

Alex Mueller: Both teams faced similar paths in getting here. Both were trying to exercise past playoff disappointments (Blackhawks and Flyers), both had to win a 7th game at home (Canadiens, Blackhawks, Lightning) to advanced and both had to dispatch their arch rivals in a series to advanced (Canadiens and Blackhawks). Actually it's quite unique that both teams beat their rivals in the 1st round at home in a 7th game overtime. The Canucks heart and soul is Ryan Kesler. Kesler took a slight step backward against the Sharks and also got a little banged up. He will need to continue to grind, do the dirty work and be a force in front of the net for the Canucks to win. On the Bruins side it's all about Nathan Horton. The Bruins haven't lost a single game when Horton has scored a goal. They have only lost once in a playoff game when Horton produced at least 1 point. As Horton goes so do the Bruins. Roberto Luongo vs Tim Thomas, again. You should remember that this two were both the back-up goalies for Team Canada and Team USA in the Olympics. Luongo ended up being the starter and Thomas didn't really play at all. But it further adds to the similarity and continuity of the team's paths. Including their pair of shutouts each and twelve wins a piece. The Canucks are having what you may call a magical year. The only thing they need now, to cap it off, is to raise Lord Stanley's Cup. Vancouver has already seen magic in the building with Team Canada's Olympic win and the fact that Luongo was their goalie. This Finals will serve as an encore with the same results. I see the Canucks winning in seven.
Prediction: Canucks in 7