Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Around the Rinks: Canucks vs. Bruins

The 2011 Stanley Cup Final begins tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, signaling the beginning of the end of a long championship drought for one of the two participants.

The Presidents’ Trophy winning Canucks joined the NHL in 1970 and have never won a Cup, despite two other trips to the final. The Boston Bruins have been around much longer and have won five Stanley Cups, but the last one came in 1972 and they’ve come out on the losing end in their last five appearances in the final.

While you’d be silly to think that any of those stats will have any influence on this series, they do highlight the fact that a Stanley Cup will be a long time coming for whichever team ends up victorious.

So, who will it be?

As much as I hate to say it, the Vancouver Canucks are a dangerously good team at the moment – they’ve got a couple of really good scoring lines and a solid checking unit, their top defensive pairings have had a great postseason and Roberto Luongo has been stellar between the pipes. Their special teams are clicking, the bounces have started to go their way (see: Bieksa) and it almost seems like they are destined to win it all this year.

Then again, the Boston Bruins might have a thing or two to say about that.

The Bruins are a team that has relied on a deep and a balanced attack up front and relentless defense to get to where they are – David Krejci and Nathan Horton aren’t exactly the Sedin twins, but they’ve managed to get the job done so far. Tim Thomas has been just as dominant as Vancouver’s Luongo in these playoffs (they boast practically identical stats to this point), another big reason for Boston’s success. Zdeno Chara has been his usual steady self on the blue line for Boston, but one pleasant surprise for Bruins fans has been the play of Dennis Seidenberg, who has really stepped up his game. One thing that has hurt Boston is the team’s horrid power play since the regular season ended. The Bruins have gone a woeful 5-for-61 with the man advantage (8.2% compared to Vancouver’s 28.3%) through 18 games. If there is one thing that is going to kill them in this series, it is that stat right there.

My Prediction: While my gut instinct is to cave and pick the Canucks to win it all, I’m going to say the Bruins will come out on top in six games. It should be a very hard fought series, but I think if the Bruins come out and set the tone physically and are able to keep their foot on the gas, they’ll be able to overpower Vancouver. The key for Boston will be getting the power play working and, all the while, staying out of the box themselves. If they can get the Sedins off their game and get a player like Alex Burrows taking dumb penalties, the Bruins will be well on their way.

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