Wednesday, June 1, 2011

2011 Stanley Cup Final (Prediction)

Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins
Three rounds have been completed, and only two remain. At stake, the chalice known as the Stanley Cup is on the line. Somebody will end a long drought without a Cup. For the Canucks, it would be their first, as they entered the league in 1970. They fell to the NY Rangers in their last bid in 1994. The Bruins last raised it in 1972. Blues fans of the older generation will remember Boston sweeping your hometown team in the 1970 Final, but the B's have been on the losing end of the last five trips to the Final, most recently in 1990. This series features the Presidents' Trophy winning Canucks, who have brushed aside Chicago, Nashville and San Jose to get here. The Bruins, the third seed in the East, got by Montreal, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay to secure their berth. It's not a surprise that the combatants in this series feature two of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy: Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas. Both had terrific regular seasons and despite some inconsistencies here and there this postseason, both have been relatively key cogs to their respective teams' successes. I'm going to call this battle dead-even, because both are solid in their own ways and have the ability to carry their teams if needed. Defensively, Zdeno Chara is a component the Canucks do not have, but they do boast a group that has been effective at both ends. Kevin Bieksa has been the mainstay on that Vancouver blue line. For the Bruins to have an edge back there, now might be as good a time as any for Thomas Kaberle to make an appearance in this postseason, because up until now, he's been a virtual non-factor. Or should I say any time his name's brought up, he's making an egregious error. The Canucks have an edge up front. Their forwards seem to run deeper than that of the Bruins, with the Sedins catching fire against the Sharks and Ryan Kesler being ... well, Ryan Kesler. But one concern I have if you're Vancouver is: how beat up is Kesler? He's taken a pounding in these playoffs -- OK, who hasn't? -- but he seems to soldier on. It's going to be interesting to see Kesler matching muscle with Milan Lucic. It's no secret that the Canucks PP has a decisive edge over Boston's anemic man advantage. The Bruins PK will have to be better than they were against the Lightning, who at times torched the B's. The return of Manny Malhotra could prove beneficial for the Canucks, but after being out for such a stretch with that eye injury, how effective can he really be as the postseason winds down. Everyone else, right now, is at another level and a different pace. I have two wildcards for this series: Michael Ryder for Boston and Alexandre Burrows for Vancouver; my X-factors: Nathan Horton for Boston and Daniel Sedin for Vancouver. OK, I'm not going to go into all the detailed X's and O's like some of the other media brethren have. I picked the Canucks to get here at the start of the season, losing to Pittsburgh. They seem to be the overwhelming choice but I don't think it's going to be so overwhelming. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Pacific Northwest get its first Cup but I'm going on a limb here. Each time the Bruins seem to be challenged, they rise to the occasion. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci play important roles ... more important than expected, and how cool would it be to see 43-year-old Mark Recchi win his third Cup ... 20 years after winning his first with the Penguins? I'm going to go against the grain and go with the ... BRUINS in 6.

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