Stanley Cup Final Preview

I am super, super late to this so I will skip the introduction and cut right to the chase with this one.

The Matchup:

Interestingly enough, Boston’s been the team who has been controlling play more in the post-season. That is mostly because Vancouver has been more successful on their powerplay and has been playing from ahead in a lot off games, mainly in the San Jose series. Vancouver has been out-shooting their opponents on a more frequent basis, though. Boston’s experienced more luck with shooting percentages by a longshot, especially their first line. Both teams have been getting superb goaltending while Vancouver’s powerplay has been vastly superior to Boston’s. Both penalty kills are performing at the same level, and they have been penalized a lot in the post-season so Boston better hope the calls go in their favor this series, because Vancouver’s superiority on the powerplay is going to play a huge factor. Just ask the Sharks.

Forwards:

Caucks

Alain Vingleaut is still riding those top two lines a lot and the Sedins have been struggling with their ice time so far at even-strength. However, they both have been getting the job done on the powerplay and they improved their stats a lot this past series compared to the first two. Higgins-Kesler-Raymond are still doing most of the heavy lifting and have arguably been Vancouver’s best line in the playoff. Kesler’s had his name thrown around for the Conn Smythe and rightfully so. Higgins has been a good replacement for Samuelsson, too as unbelievable as that sounds. The third lien of the Canucks does well with the ice time they are given and as you’ll see, they are given a ton of tough starts. Torres and Lapierre did very well in the San Jose series. Vancouver does have more depth here than most think but Vingleaut elects to use the first two more than anything. Malholtra’s return will definitely make his life easier since he can give Kesler’s line more of an offensive role now that he’s got his defensive zone start eater back.

Bruins:

As I said in the conference final post, Boston has one scoring line, one that focuses more on two-way play and two defensive lines. Horton-Krejci-Lucic may have scored most of Boston’s goals in the Tampa series but they were not that good overall. Bergeron-Marchand-Recchi continues to be the most consistent while the last two lines are doing well with the defensive assignments they’ve been receiving. Seguin did prove to be the x-factor in game 2 of the Tampa series as he accounted for 80% of Tampa’s scoring chances. Interesting that’s he doing this with bottom-six minutes and basically no powerplay time. Wonder if Julien will mix things up if things get hectic in this series. Maybe give Marchand or Recchi’s spot to Seguin?

Defensemen

Canucks

Like before, Bieksa and Hamhuis are the anchors of this defense corps and Bieksa’s producing offensively to add to it. That is making Ehrhoff’s injury sting a lot less than it should because losing his cannon at the blue-line would cripple a lot of other teams. The Canucks still have guys like Edler, Bieksa and Salo who can pitch in. Even Aaron Rome is producing! Ehrhoff’s injury has had Vingeault grasp at straws to fill the sixth d-man spot, though which shouldn’t be that hard of a decision because Ballard should be playing a lot more games than he has these playoffs. You can do a lot worse if you’re looking for a guy to play less than 15 minutes a game and be solid in his own zone during that time. Hell, some teams would love to have that option! Anyway, this Canucks defense corps is in very good shape even with the injury and it’s a big reason why their powerplay is so dangerous.

Bruins:

I’m surprised Boychuk and Ference’s ratings didn’t drop off because both of them were awful in the Tampa Bay series. Hopefully for the Bruins sake they pick it up because there is hardly any depth here beyond Chara and Seidenberg. Kaberle’s doing a little better in offensive situations despite getting heavily panned by Boston fans. It would be nice for him to produce more on the powerplay because the Bruins need that now more than ever. Surprised they made it this far despite their huge struggles in that area.

Goaltending:

Two Veznia finalists going head-to-head…doesn’t get much better than that. It’s also very tough to predict because both of these goalies are capable of stealing any game but they also have the potential to cough up 5-6 goals, as well. Tim Thomas had to steal a few games for Boston in the Tampa Bay series and many games in the playoffs, which is why he is up there with Kesler for the Conn Smythe. Luongo didn’t have to do much against San Jose aside from Game 5 where he kept the Canucks in the game the whole time. Thomas’ lows seem a little higher than Luongo’s so I will give the edge to the Bruins here. He may have to stand on his head with the Bruins defense corps though but he’s been doing that all year and it doesn’t look like it’s changing one bit. Luongo’s workload is going to be lighter but he seems more prone to mental mistakes. We’ll see what happens.

Scoring Chances:
Here are the scoring chances for both teams against their respective conference final opponents

Canucks:

Everyone except for Glass, Rome, Hodgson, Ballard, Tambellini and Tanev won their matches which basically means that every player who got significant ice time won their matches for the Canucks. Definitely a good sign for them moving forward because that means they are getting hot at just the right time. They did this against a very tough San Jose Shark team too. Seeing the Sedin’s scoring chance percentage that high should make a lot of Vancouver fans feel very confident. Also note how well Salo, Laierre and Burrows played in that series.

Bruins:

Conversely, no Bruin player won their matchup except for Patrice Bergeron. You can see how him returning to the lineup was critical for that team’s success. The Bruins second line performed the best out of anyone here. Lucic-Krejci-Horton are going to need to play better if Boston is going to want to win this series but it’s a little reassuring to see that they are getting their chances on the powerplay. One thing’s for sure, Chara is going to have to play A LOT better than he did against Tampa if the Bruins want any shot.

The Prediction:

I’m going in a little different direction with my pick here. The way these two teams are matched up, it looks like if the Canucks win, it will be a quick series. I’m thinking five games for that. There’s too much firepower up front for Vancouver and they have a clear advantage in the special teams battle, as well. The Canucks are going to take care of the Bruins quickly…if they win. If the Canucks let the Bruins stretch this series out to 7 games then I don’t see them winning. The Bruins are going to be able to do that if they keep the Canucks powerplay halted and play a lot of 2-0, 1-0 games. It can go either way right now. However, it’s hard for me to believe that the Bruins have another seven games in them to grind it out but stranger things have happened in the playoffs. We shall see what happens.

And that’s my prediction. 🙂

 

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