It’s been a long time coming for both teams, with Vancouver making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since losing in seven games in 1994 to Mark Messier’s New York Rangers (yes, the same Messier who couldn’t lead the Canucks into ANY round of the post-season), while Boston has had to wait since 1990, when they lost to Mark Messier’s Edmonton Oilers. As long as Mark Messier doesn’t show up, I think one of these two teams will win a Stanley Cup. That’s my bold prediction.
I didn’t do this last year, but two seasons ago I did a bit of a Finals preview by using my “patented” Gilligan’s Island Stereotype Model for Sports Success.
Let’s give a whirl and see how these teams stack up:
Henrik Sedin is obviously one of the Sedin twins, so it is understandable if you have a hard time telling them apart. It’s quite easy though, because “Hank” wears the letter “C” on his sweater and leads the NHL Playoffs in scoring with 21 pts (2G, 19A). Last season was one of individual accomplishment as he won the NHL scoring race (the Art Ross Trophy) as well as the Hart (MVP). In the quiet, cerebral manner of his, it’s easy to tell that he doesn’t care about individual accomplishments and wants the biggest trophy of all. Also, I’ve never heard him use the word “I” in an interview; it’s always “We” (Though, I’ll admit much of that is due to the reporters constantly calling him Daniel…).
Ryan Kesler is the straw that stirs the Canucks’ drink. Any impartial observer will tell you that number 17 is the heart and soul of the team. He plays big minutes, scores points (18 so far this post-season), shuts down the opposition, blocks shots, and kills penalties. If Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider both went down in a game, it wouldn’t surprise me if “Kess” would offer to strap on the pads himself. He’s in the mix to win the regular season award for best defensive forward (Selke) and his name has also been tapped as a possible playoff MVP (Conn Smythe) in no small part due to his shutting down Toews & Co at even-strength in round 1, having an offensive field day in round 2, and scoring a crucial tying goal in round 3 after earlier leaving the game injured. These are the kinds of feats that legends are made of.
Daniel Sedin certainly is no slouch in his brother’s shadow. When Henrik won the Art Ross in 2009-2010 as the highest pointscorer in the league, Daniel just went out and did it in 2010-2011. The goal-scorer of the twins, Daniel leads the Canucks with 8G so far, with 5 coming on the power play. If the Bruins give up too many penalties, it is almost certainly going to be number 22 who makes them pay.
The Millionaire’s Wife
Alex Burrows may just be the most forgotten player on one of the highest scoring lines in hockey. While he sometimes can get bumped down a line or two, he is most often found riding shotgun with the Sedins, an enviable position, for sure. A gritty, agitating and aggravating player, Burrows will be a pest under Boston’s skin. It just comes as a bonus to the Canucks that he also seems to be able to put the biscuit in the basket, with 7G and 7A so far.
The Movie Star
Roberto Luongo has been waiting to silence his critics for years. It wasn’t enough that he was the closest thing Canucks fans had seen to a real, live goaltender in the last twenty years, they expect the world from him. He is one of the highest paid goalies in the league and consistently ranks in the top five in most statistical categories every year. It’s just that every now and then, a bad bounce or some bad mojo comes his way and it’s season over. In the previous two years that had come in the form of Patrick Kane, mulleted winger of the Chicago Blackhawks. This year, despite a bit of poor form, Lu exercised the Hawks demon and took the Canucks further than they had been since Captain Kirk was wearing a flying skate. He’s hoping that after delivering an Olympic Gold last year, he can bring Vancouver a Cup, too.
The Girl Next Door
Kevin Bieksa certainly is no slouch, but he’s also not quite superstar defense material, either. Or is he? With this being a contract year, ‘Beaker’ seems to have played out of his mind. He’s thrown fisticuffs a few times; he’s led the D with 5 goals scored (including a fluky series 3 winner) and he is leading all Canucks with an average of almost 26 minutes per game played as the coaching staff has increasingly leaned on him, reflecting trust in his matured play.
Alex Edler wasn’t supposed to make it to the playoffs. He had back surgery and was supposed to use the spring and summer to rehab. Instead, there he was in round 1 against Chicago – throwing checks. The Canucks’ best D-man was a huge boost to the team and he has the ability to perform under pressure, make great break-out passes and ultimately not cost the team with poor lapses of judgement with his quick, though almost always appropriate, thinking.
Zdeno Chara is the player almost every other player in the NHL fears. He has the hardest slapshot in the league, he is 6-9, weighs 255, and isn’t afraid of using a stanchion to rub out unsuspecting wingers. And, with a +11 in the playoffs, it’s quite clear that he doesn’t take kindly to the opposition scoring when he is on the ice – which is almost always. At an average of 28 minutes per game, Chara is virtually taking every second defense shift. He is relishing the challenge of taking on the leading scorers from the past two seasons and will likely put the pressure on Vancouver’s secondary scoring.
Patrice Bergeron is Ryan Kesler East. Almost everything that has been said about Ryan Kesler for the Canucks can be said about Patrice Bergeron for the Bruins. He leads by example, is an excellent two-way centre, kills penalties, scores points, shuts down the opposition. He is also possibly a candidate for the Conn Smythe if Boston wins.
Nathan Horton was the big trade that Boston is almost certainly happy they made. In order to supplement their scoring last summer they went out and brought in former first rounder Horton. Between him and Milan Lucic, they’ve created a pairing of big, bruising, power forwards that give most Eastern Conference defense pairs the willies. While the regular season was ho-hum by Horton’s standards, these playoffs have really been his coming-out party with 8G, 9A and have justified every penny that the Bruins have committed to him, both in salary and the assets they gave up to acquire him from Florida.
The Millionaire’s Wife
Dennis Seidenberg is the other defenseman who steps on the ice every time Chara does. Perhaps it is because of the very large shadow that the captain literally casts that fans don’t recognise Seidenberg. However, the fact that Seidenberg leads Boston’s D in minutes played, is tied for points, and second in plus-minus ought to bring him some acclaim.
The Movie Star
Milan Lucic might have been saving his best for this round. Despite normally playing on a line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, the two top point-scorers for the Bruins, Lucic is nowhere to be found in the box scores, with just 9 pts so far. However, with “Looch” returning to his hometown, you can bet that he is ready to turn it up a few notches. He loves playing the villain in Vancouver as his game-winning goal in the only match-up between these two teams this season shows.
The Girl Next Door
Tim Thomas is the most unlikely candidate to be a world-class goaltender, and yet, here he is, 37 years old, barely six full seasons into an NHL career competing for the Stanley Cup. He is also likely to win his second Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender. He plays an erratic, undisciplined style, reminiscent of Dominek Hasek, only with more flopping about. The thing is, though, it seems to work. Thomas battles to stop every shot and when he is on, the opposing team’s chances of scoring are very, very low.
David Krejci is someone who makes the most of opportunities. If it were not for the devastating injuries that Patrice Bergeron and Marc Savard had/have faced in the last couple years, no one could have predicted where Krejci would fit in the depth chart. That thought was only compounded when the Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin second overall last summer. All Krejci has done is go out and play and become the team’s number one centre. He was the team’s co-leading scorer in the 2010-2011 regular season (with Lucic) and is the team’s co-leading scorer in the 2010-2011 playoffs (with Horton). He made the great slicing pass to Horton that defeated Tampa Bay in game 7 of round 3 and he’s scored 10 goals so far in these playoffs. The thing that Krejci seems to do better than most, is crank up his scoring when it matters most. His scoring percentage in the playoffs is actually triple that of the regular season or in other words, when he is shooting in the playoffs the puck is going in the net three times as often. He did the same last year, though it “only” doubled.
While Boston will put up a tough match with the Canucks, Vancouver’s depth and fortitude will have them hoisting Stanley in 5 games.