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Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins

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First and foremost, way to go Winnepeg! You got your Jets (or whatever they will be called) back! Hockey in the American south is hit or miss… in Atlanta it’s a miss, but in Canada it still means everything. So before I get to the Stanley Cup Finals preview, a round of applause for Winnepeg… now let’s see if they can hang on to the team this time.

Speaking of Canada, a team from America’s hat hasn’t hoisted a cup since Montreal won it all in 1993. Vancouver hopes to change that fact while winning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Luckily for Canuck fans, this squad looks to have the personnel to accomplish their goal. The Bruins are trying to end a drought as well; having not won a Cup since Bobby Orr led the way in 1972. However calling the Boston fan-base starved is a gross overstatement. The success of the Celtics, Red Sox, and Patriots have given fans in Boston a lot to be proud of… just ask them, they’ll tell you, then tell you again, and again, and again… But this is about hockey, so let’s get to it.

Vancouver has been the best team in hockey for most of the season and after a harrowing opening round series against the Blackhawks have regained their form. They are extremely deep with firepower littering each line. The headliners are obviously the Sedin Twins but don’t forget about the talented Ryan Kesler. Beyond that, they have capable goal scorers in Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins, and Mason Raymond that will need to contribute offensively in order to get the job done.

The Bruins may not have the star power of the Canucks, but they are also deep and capable of lighting up the scoreboard. They are led by Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci. Maybe not household names, but they have a knack for finding the back of the net. Like Vancouver, they will need contributions from other such as,  Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Michael Ryder, and Milan Lucic. Still, tough to give anyone aside from a healthy Penguins roster an advantage when it comes to pure star-power, so Vancouver gets the nod offensively.

As for the blueliners, the B’s boast one of the best in Zdeno Chara. He’s the team captain and a lockdown defender, but will have his hands full with the Sedins. As good as Chara has been, Tomas Kaberle has been nearly the opposite. Kaberle hasn’t nearly approached his hype and more often than not is actually a liability on the ice. If he can find himself, the Bruins defense will be very solid; if not, Tim Thomas will be getting peppered from all angles.

 

Vancouver doesn’t have any one player as talented as Chara, but their defense as a whole is greater than the sum of Boston’s parts. Kevin Bieska has been playing like a man possessed. On top of that they have a solid group with Christian Erhoff, Keith Ballard, Sami Salo, and Dan Hamhuis. Vancouver’s d-men also get involved on the offensive side adding another element to the Canucks already potent goal scoring prowess.

When it comes to netminders, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo has survived earlier benchings and regained his confidence as easily noted by his game 5 performance against the Sharks. Tim Thomas has been slightly better in the postseason but a little shaky as of late. Both are more than capable of standing on their head on any given night and I really don’t see either as a liability.

Both teams are relatively healthy. The Canucks will get Manny Malhotra back from what looked like a career ending injury. If he is anywhere near regular form, his presence will definitely give their special teams a boost. They will still be without Mikael Samuelsson, and have a few others that are nicked up, but their big guns are ready to go. The Bruins will be without the services of Marc Savard in this series, but aside from that, are relatively injury-free.

While I already feel that Vancouver is the superior team, they have another huge advantage heading in to this series; penalty killing. The Canucks are one of the better teams in the league at killing penalties while the Bruins’ power play (so far in the playoffs) has been horrendous to the tune of an 8% conversion rate. Unless they can get their power play in order this will be a short series. Granted, I don’t think it will be a long series either way, Vancouver has too much firepower and all of a sudden a hot goalie.

Canucks in 5

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