Well, here we are. The Stanley Cup Finals, a minimum of four, and a maximum of seven games left, in what has been a wild and whacky NHL season. Itís exciting, yet sad knowing that the Stanley Cup will be awarded in a couple of weeks, exciting because one team will exorcise demons of playoffs past, whether it be Vancouver, or Boston. Sad, because after that, as hockey fans we have to wait until September just for exhibition games, and October until the start of the 2011-12 season, which will see the reintroduction of the Winnipeg franchise. Hereís hoping theyíre called the Jets!
After watching Original Six team Chicago hoist the Stanley Cup last season ending a 48 year drought, the Boston Bruins are looking to capture its first title since 1972 when Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr led them to the Promised Land.
In Vancouver, the Canucks have never won the Cup since their inception in 1969-70; they did however finish runner up in 1982 and in 1994 and with a victory would end a drought stretching to 18 years since a Canadian team has won the whole title.
Forwards: If youíve read the past three previews you know how I feel about both teams forward groups, theyíre deep, skilled and strong. Vancouver might see the miraculous return of Manny Malhotra which would give the Canucks a boost up the middle, he will, however, more than likely miss game one tonight. Sedins have started scoring, and Kesler is shutting down the opposition. Boston is getting tremendous production out of its first line of Krejci, Horton and Lucic and Lucic will be buoyed by the fact that he is playing in his hometown on a rink where he enjoyed success as a member of the Vancouver Giants, winning a Memorial Cup on Rogers Arena ice in 2007.
Defense: Both have tremendously capable blue lines and even the much maligned Tomas Kaberle made an appearance for the Bruins in the final two games for Boston on the power play. I was privileged to go to game five in Boston, and to see how hated he was amongst the fans was a testament to the amount of times Iíve said this guy is a scary proposition to have on your team. Who doesnít like being proved right?
Vancouverís D is healthy, which is a good thing for Canuck fans and with the long layoff between their game five victory over San Jose, they should be fresh and ready to go.
Goaltending: It certainly is an intriguing match-up between the pipes as the technically sound Roberto Luongo looks to win the whole thing and silence his critics, while the lovable, yet unorthodox Tim Thomas is showing that hard work and perseverance pays off, even if you have to go elsewhere to get your NHL dream on track.
Coaching: Well, Iím surprised; both coaches after never making it past the second round are in the Stanley Cup Finals. Never thought Iíd see the day when Claude Julien would be in the mix to win it all, but here he is, defying all odds and if the players continue to not listen to him in Boston, theyíll be better off.
Alain Vigneault has the Canucks tuned like a finely oiled machine and they look good in all aspects of the game.
Series Outlook: This is a tough one to call. I really thought Washington would be occupying this position in the Finals against Vancouver, which was my prediction at the start of the year, however here are the Bruins representing the East when Iíve gone against them, time and time again. Forgive me, but I just donít believe in Claude Julien. I donít think a team coached by him should win a Cup, and though I love the Bruins because of what I saw on my sabbatical to TD North Garden I really must go against them again and take Vancouver in seven.
Vishal Hussain has been a hockey fan since 1987 and a Devils fan since 1990. A graduate of the critically acclaimed College of Sports Media in Toronto Ontario, Vishal has actively been a fantasy player since 2000, winning his first ever Yahoo! pool and continually finishing in the top 3 each year since. He watches every game, every night through NHL Centre Ice, both online and on TV and is an excellent evaluator of fantasy players and up and coming prospects in the league. Email Coach Hussain at [email protected].