2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Boston vs. Vancouver

It feels like nearly a month has passed since the Vancouver Canucks played their last game, and whether that's a good or bad thing I can't be quite sure.

It's going to be strange seeing the Sedin's hit the ice and run circles around defensemen. Strange in the sense that there will be a sharp pain running down your arm, and a decidedly familiar one at that, but a pain that slowly becomes dulled as the shifts bleed together in a soulless symphony for the dead.

If it wasn't real when the Stanchion committed what is considered a felony in 47 states, it's sure as hell real right now.

Vancouver and Boston. The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

Puck drops at 5:00 PM tonight.

Boston vs. Vancouver Stanley Cup Finals Schedule

Date Location Time (PST)
G1 Wed June 1st
@ Vancouver
5:00 NBC
G2 Sat June 4th
@ Vancouver
5:00 NBC
G3 Mon June 6th @ Boston
5:00 Versus
G4 Wed June 8th @ Boston
5:00 Versus
G5 Fri June 10th @ Vancouver
5:00 NBC
G6 Mon June 13th @ Boston
5:00 NBC
G7 Wed June 15th @ Vancouver
5:00 NBC

The majority of the pundits are picking Vancouver to bring home their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and for good reason-- the Bruins don't match up well with the Canucks at any position other than goaltender, and the sheer depth of the Vancouver squad is one that makes it hard to bet against them.

On the blueline, one matchup that I like for Boston is the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg against the Sedins. That's the best Bruins shutdown pairing by leaps and bounds, and if they can keep the Canucks best line off the scoresheet, the Bruins have a shot at this thing. Boston has some decent depth up front, with Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic leading the way, but they don't have the stallions that the Canucks do.

That top pairing versus top line matchup is going to be the second biggest key to this series for Boston, which isn't breaking new ground when it comes to analysis, but is extremely relevant nonetheless.

On the injury front, Manny Malhotra has been steadily improving from the injury he sustained on March 16th, 2011 when a puck deflected off his stick and caught him in the eye. At the time, it was speculated that his career would be over-- two and a half months later, he is a possible addition to the fourth line for the Canucks at some point in the Finals.

Much like San Jose attempted to do, Boston will want to slow the pace of the game down to a manageable level. But therein lies the issue of the vaunted Canucks counterattack. With all of the speed up and down their lineup, it's going to be difficult for the more methodical Bruins to keep that pace contained. Compounding those issues is the fact that Boston gives up a vast amount of shots against per game-- 12th in the NHL this postseason, and 29th during the regular season. They bleed shots in their own zone, and against the best team in the National Hockey League, that's going to be an issue.

Which brings it all back to Tim Thomas. Nominated for a Vezina Trophy this season after posting a historical .938 SV%, the Bruins fate lies in Thomas' hands. His story of perseverance makes him an easy guy to root for. His decidedly retro approach to the position, a pure reflex goaltender who relies on his life experience rather than percentages to make saves, allows him to put up absolute stinkers as well as astounding gems. He's the biggest key for Boston hands down and will need to have a phenomenal series just to keep this one interesting.

The deck is stacked against the B's to be certain, but there's always the possibility they decide to flip the script and silence the critics.

I just don't think it happens.

Prediction: Thomas steals a couple but it's not enough to ward off the Presidents' Trophy winners. Canucks in six.

Who wins the 2011 Stanley Cup?

Bruins in 4-511
Canucks in 4-5130
Bruins in 6-7112
Canucks in 6-7143