With a 1-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night, the Canucks found out their opponent for the Stanley Cup Final. That opponent, of course, are the big bad Boston Bruins. While the Lightning probably have more star power, I think this matchup will provide a little more sizzle given that the Bruins are an original 6 franchise.
As has been stated over and over again in the last few days, this is the Canucks third trip to the Stanley Cup final in their history, but this is the first time that they have been the favourites. The Bruins come into the series as underdogs, but they aren’t exactly a Cinderella team, and have a realistic chance of winning this series.
We know all about the Canucks of course, so lets meet the Bruins:
The last time they were here
Everyone has heard by now that the last time the Canucks were in the Stanley Cup final was 1994 and they have never won a Stanley Cup in their 40 year history. Quietly though, the Bruins face a similar drought. The last time Boston was in the Stanley Cup final was 1990, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers. The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 1972.
How they got here
Similar to the Canucks, the Bruins had a difficult road to the final. Just like the Canucks, they had to face their arch nemesis in the first round, overcoming a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Montreal Canadiens in 7 games. They made quick work of last year’s Stanley Cup finalists, beating the Philadelphia Flyers in 4 games. And of course, they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a tough 7 game series.
The Bruins and Canucks played just one time this season, with the Bruins winning 3-1 (2-1 with an empty netter). That night was the Milan Lucic show, as he finished the game with a goal and two assists.
This series features a matchup of Vezina Trophy finalists in goal, so naturally both teams should get good goaltending. Interestingly enough, both goalies have been thought of as playoff underachievers though. Tim Thomas struggled mightily at times in the last series against the Lightning, giving up 4+ goals on four occasions. He had moments of brilliance though, notching two shutouts, including a shutout in game 7.
Everyone knows about big Zdeno Chara and former Leaf Tomas Kaberle, but after that the Bruins defense is a bit unheralded. Dennis Seidenberg, who leads the Bruins in playoff ice time, might be the most underrated defenceman in the league. Chara and Seidenberg will likely play as much as possible against the Sedins, and that’ll be an important matchup in this series. The B’s second pairing of Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference will likely get the Kesler line, which should be advantage Vancouver. Perhaps a bigger mismatch will be the Bruins third pairing of Kaberle-McQuaid against the Canucks physical third line of Lapierre, Torres and Hansen.
The Bruins forwards do not have the star power up front that the Canucks possess, but they have a lot of depth and a lot of grit. The dump and chase is a common strategy the Bruins use, so the Canucks defense will need to be quick on their feet. Quietly having an outstanding playoffs is David Krejci, who leads the league in goals and is fifth in points. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis will likely be given the job of shutting down Krejci’s unit.
The story for the Bruins this playoff season has been their impotence on the power play. The Bruins power play is 5-for-61 in the playoffs. Compare that to Vancouver’s power play which has gone 17-for-60, and you can see the mismatch. As for the penalty kill, both teams have been average, with the Canucks at 80.8% and Boston at 79.4%. That may change for the Canucks though, with the return of Manny Malhotra.
Keys to the series
1. Goaltending. If the Bruins are to win this series, Tim Thomas will need to outplay Roberto Luongo. If Luongo outplays Thomas, it could be a short series.
2. Power plays. If the Bruins continue to struggle on the power play and the Canucks continue to sizzle, it’ll spell trouble for the Bruins.
3. Boston’s forward depth against Vancouver’s defensive depth. The Bruins are a four line team and can get goals from any line. The Canucks are well positioned to defend such a team, as their defense does not overly rely on any one player.
I’m expecting a great series. It’ll be long and grinding and a whole lot of fun. Both teams have a legitimate chance to win it all and both fan bases live and die with their teams. Now all we have to do is wait 5 more LONG days for the fun to start! Can’t wait.
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