It’s taken roughly two months to get to this point, but only two teams remain in the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will open up the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday in Vancouver.
The Canucks were my pick, along with many others, at the beginning of the year to bring the Cup back to Canada for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won in 1993.
Granted, the Calgary Flames should have been awarded the Stanley Cup in 2004. I’m 100 percent convinced that puck was over the line off of Martin Gelinas’ skate in the third period of Game 6.
How the review was only a matter of seconds is unfathomable. Sure, it went off his skate, but there was no distinct kicking motion. He was in the act of stopping so he didn’t plow through Nikolai Khabibulin.
Martin St. Louis went on to score in double overtime to force a Game 7 where Tampa Bay would win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
This year’s Stanley Cup Final showcases two teams looking to end droughts.
For Vancouver, they have never sipped champagne out of hockey’s Holy Grail since joining the NHL in 1970. They have appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals with the last time coming in 1994, which they lost in seven games to the New York Rangers.
For Boston, the last time they hoisted the Stanley Cup was 1972. Of course, Boston is an Original 6 team, but they have only won the Stanley Cup five times in their history. The last time Boston made it to the Finals was in 1990 where they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in five games.
Vancouver ran away with the President’s Trophy this season, but that’s hardly been a guarantee to have success in the playoffs.
The last team to win the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season was Detroit in 2007-08.
The President’s Trophy was first handed out after the 1985-86 season. Since that time, only seven winners have also won the Cup.
This will be a matchup of teams that like to skate. Both have solid lineups and have good goaltending, which should make for some entertaining hockey.
Tampa Bay exposed one big weakness in Boston’s armor and that’s the over-aggressive style of Tim Thomas.
When Tampa was able to make one extra pass in tight, the puck was in the back of the net. Vancouver’s skill players have the ability to make passes into the smallest of windows and could exploit this weakness.
A lot of the focus will be placed on the play of Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo. He’s shown he can win big games in the past by outdueling Ryan Miller in the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game. He also came up big against the Blackhawks in Game 7 during the opening round of the playoffs after the Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead.
He’s also a lot more technically sound than Thomas, which isn’t exactly hard to do.
I equate Thomas to a younger version of Dominik Hasek. He never gives up on a play, even if he’s completely down and out. Many saves aren’t pretty, but he gets the job done.
I give the guy a lot of credit for his rise to the NHL and having won a Vezina Trophy with a potential second one on the way. However, Tampa Bay was able to rattle him and get him off his game during the Eastern Conference Finals.
For Boston to be successful, they’re going to need to stay out of the penalty box and figure out a way to score on the power play.
Vancouver’s power play is clicking at a scorching 28.3 percent rate in the playoffs (17 goals). Boston has only scored five power play goals in 61 chances (8.2 percent).
My one suggestion for the Bruins is to stop parking Zdeno Chara in front of the net on the power play. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s doing more harm than good.
Chara blasts the puck at near lethal speeds and yet the Bruins are leaving that club in the bag. Does this make sense to anyone other than Claude Julien?
As far as the penalty killing goes, both teams are in the middle of the pack among teams that qualified for the playoffs.
Vancouver’s kill rate is 80.6 percent (14 goals against on 72 chances), while Boston is killing penalties at a 79.4 percent rate (13 goals against on 63 chances).
I don’t see this as being a sweep mainly because Thomas is capable of stealing games on his own. I think the Bruins will squeak out a couple wins, but ultimately Vancouver is just too strong.
They have too many weapons and will be inspired by the good news regarding Manny Malhotra being cleared for full practice after suffering what could have been a career-ending eye injury only a couple months ago.
Vancouver also has an entire country behind them.
So, get ready to celebrate Canada because the Canucks are bringing Lord Stanley home in six games.
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