No. 1 (West) Vancouver vs. East No. 3 (East) Boston Bruins
The long awaited final is upon us as Vancouver and Boston are set to face-off for the Stanley Cup. For one final time this season, our writers put their “expertise” on the line and deliver their analysis and predictions.
Brian La Rose (Record: 9-5)
Analysis: It’s the series that Hab fans didn’t want to see with the Bruins disposing of the Lightning. It’s also the series that from an entertainment standpoint probably isn’t the best as a Tampa-Vancouver would have allowed the skill players to shine. That said, this certainly will have the makings of an interesting series as there are lots of key storylines. Here are the ones that particularly pique my interest:
1) Goalies – Neither goalie has made it this far and although their playoff numbers are strong, both have had a lot of ups and downs in the postseason. If one can just be consistent in a good way, their team will have a much better chance at winning.
2) Sedins vs Chara – Against the Sharks, the Sedins ran wild (and my team in the HW pool thanks them), a lot of that had to do with a San Jose defence that wasn’t particularly physical. The same surely can’t be said about the B’s and Chara in particular. If the Sedins struggle against top notch defence like they did in the early rounds, it will give Boston quite the edge.
3) Former Habs – An ex-Hab is going to come away with a Cup ring, that much we know. This isn’t really going to affect the series either way but it’s still interesting to me.
Prediction: Bruins in 6 – Though I’m certainly not naive enough to claim that the Canucks haven’t faced a physical opponent yet, I will say that Boston’s physicality will play a significant role especially as the series drags on. I think that Boston’s depth will outscore that of Vancouver’s which is concerning as I presume the Sedins won’t be hitting the scoresheet as often as they did last round. Once again, the Habs will be able to say they lost to the eventual Cup champions, something that has happened a few times in recent years.
Louis Moustakas (Record: 6-8)
Analysis: As a Habs fan and a Chicago native, needless to say this is not exactly my preferred final matchup. Personal bias aside, this series should be close, physical and entertaining. Both goaltenders have an alternating knack for making spectacular saves and allowing deflating goals, meaning that we should see dramatic shifts in momentum within this series. Goaltending aside, like my colleague above, there are some particular points that stand out in my mind:
1) Man-advantage? – It is almost unfathomable that Boston is in the final with a pedestrian 8.2% efficiency on the man advantage. Heck, I am sure some Canadiens fans still cannot digest the fact that the Bruins beat Montreal even though they did not score a measly power play goal. Conversely, Vancouver has converted on an impressive 28.3% of their chances. If Boston’s man advantage can wake up, that will go a long way to tilting the ice in the Bruins’ favour. However, it is perhaps unreasonable to expect such a sudden turn around after three rounds of mediocrity. In the end, the more this series is played at even strength, the more it favours the Bruins.
2) Physicality – Boston’s physical advantage is being largely overplayed here. For all their supposed edge in that department, it took them 7 close fought games to dispose of the diminutive Canadiens and Lightning. Against a team that boasts the likes of Kevin Bieska, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Max Lapierre, it strikes me as rather even matchup. Interestingly enough, even statistically speaking, Vancouver has dished out 150 more hits this playoff season
3) Former coaches – Much like Brian, I find the former Hab aspect quite intriguing, especially where the coaches are concerned. Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien have much in common, both having made stops with the Gatineau Olympiques and Montreal Canadiens organizations. It certainly will be interesting to see how they handle themselves under the bright lights of the finals.
Prediction: It would be rather surprising to see the Sedin’s produce like they did last round, but the same could be said for Boston’s top scorers as well. No offense to Tampa Bay, but Vancouver’s blueline must surely be considered a more stout group. In reality, in many areas these teams seem to be rather evenly matched. Ultimately, the Canuck’s better powerplay, the play of Ryan Kesler and their superior production from the blueline will prove problematic for the Bruins. Vancouver in 7.