©MMXI Tank Productions. Predictions Made by Frank Fleming on May 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm ET
Canucks in 5
One team is born of expansion; the other is a NHL stalwart who was not only an original six team, but one of the first American teams in the NHL. The Canucks have been thirsty for 40 years, coming up empty in two previous trips to the finals. The Bruins meanwhile have not drank from hockey's Holy Grail since 1972, losing to dynastic teams like the Flyers, Canadiens and Oilers in trips to the finals since.
The Canucks have never been better for years they toiled in anonymity in the often forgotten Pacific Northwest. Each of their previous two trips to the Stanley Cup Finals were unexpected. The 1982 team is still revered in Vancouver despite being swept by the New York Islanders. While the 1994 team was a seventh seed that overcame a 3-1 hole in the first round, and nearly overcame a 3-1 deficit against the New York Rangers, before losing 3-2 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The City of Vancouver shined last year during the Olympics as Goalie Roberto Luongo took home the gold for Canada, while Ryan Kesler had a stellar Olympics, to capture Silver for Team USA. Their best players though are the Sedin Twins, who look alike play alike, and have a psychic connection that's almost spooky. Last year Henri led the NHL in scoring, and was won the Hart trophy. This year Daniel won the scoring title and is expected to win the Hart.
The Bruins are not as flashy, they are bruising they are tough they are the Boston best emphasized by the Dropkick Murphys. One look at Bruins and they look like a team that wants to hurt you with the 6'9" Zdeno Chara being their leader in bruises, as he became the most hated man in Montreal when his hit on Max Pacioretty landed the Habs skater in the hospital. Chara is simply the most intimidating player in the NHL today, and leads a Bruins defense that was the best in the NHL all season, helping Goalie Tim Thomas lead the leading in save percentage and GAA.
The direction of this series will be determined by the style of the play. If the game opens up the Canucks could win it easily, but if it becomes physical the Bruins will have a chance for the upset. The Bruins will need to follow the formula of the New Jersey Devils cup success, a team that current Bruins Coach Claude Jullien once coached. While winning their three cups the Devils used the trap and physicality of Scott Stevens to success. If Chara can do the same the Bruins can win the cup. Despite the success of Thomas, the Canucks may have the goaltending edge with Luongo as he is also one of the best goalies in the league, so the key goaltending battle is as about as even as any series can be, which will make the pace of play even a bigger factor, as Tim Thomas does not like to face a lot of shots.
The X Factor could be Manny Malholtra. Late in the season Malholtra was written off as done for the year after taking a puck in the eye. His career was in jeopardy after being a great two way player for the Canucks all year. As the finals begin, Malhotra who has been an emotional cheerleader throughout the playoffs has been cleared to play. Though he will not see the ice right away if the Canucks need a pick me up he could certainly be it.
In the end the Canucks are the better team Ryan Kesler has been the best player in the playoffs and the Sedin Twins have not even been that big of factor until the Western Conference Finals. The Canucks had the best record in the regular season, and except for a scare against the Blackhawks they have been the best team in the postseason. The Bruins are battle tested, but have reached the finals despite several flaws including a questionable power play. With the way Kesler has played it is not hard to imagine the Selke candidate having a couple of shorthanded goals as Vancouver celebrates as the Canucks take the series in five games.
Conn Smythe Trophy: Ryan Kesler Canucks
Stanley Cup Finals