It is the series that most people predicted before the playoffs began: the Boston Bruins versus the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. For the Bruins, this will be their eighteenth appearance. They have a dismal record of 5-12 in these finals. In fact, their last Stanley Cup win was in 1972 over the New York Rangers. The Canucks, who have been in the NHL since 1970, have only been to the Stanley Cup Finals two previous times, losing in both series. A new Stanley Cup champion will be crowned: will it be the Bruins, who have not won in 39 years, or the Vancouver Canucks, who have never won in their franchise’s history?
The Boston Bruins finished third in the Eastern Conference this season and first in their division. They have good overall depth at each position with their captain, Zdeno Chara, being the best defenceman in this series. Right Winger Nathan Horton, who scored the only goal in game seven against Tampa Bay, has 8 goals and 17 points in his first ever Stanley Cup playoffs. Rookie Tyler Seguin provided a spark for the Bruins in their series against the Lightning, scoring 6 points. The Bruins are in the finals because of Tim Thomas’ strong play in net and key contributions from each of their players. While Chara is their only real superstar, the Bruins thrive on playing a team game and have gotten here because of that.
The Vancouver Canucks, who took care of the San Jose Sharks in five games, finished first in the Western Conference this season. Many predicted the Canucks to win it all before the season began. Like the Bruins, the Canucks have very good overall depth. Their team will be strengthened even more by the return of Manny Malhotra who was recently cleared to play after a scary eye injury. Henrik Sedin, last season’s MVP and Art Ross trophy winner, leads all playoff scorers with 21 points. The Canucks are in the finals because their main players (the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and goalie Roberto Luongo) have all stepped up at various times throughout the playoffs.
In their only matchup of the season, the Bruins won 3-1 at Vancouver on February 26 in what many believe to be one of the top games of the year. It is one game, though, so not a lot can be taken from it. With that said, look for travel to play a significant role in the series and it is something that the Canucks are obviously more used to because of the fact that they play in the Western Conference.
The Canucks have better top end talent at forward but the Bruins have better overall depth and have been getting more out of their role players. However, the Canucks have a better six on defense than the Bruins do. In net, the matchup is very even between Boston’s Tim Thomas and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.
In the end, the Vancouver Canucks, who have been the NHL’s best team throughout the season this year, will be victorious and lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise’s history. The Canucks take this series in six games because their top players will lead them to victory.