The theme of this year's Stanley Cup Final is the exercising of postseason failure. Both the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins have experienced losing, not just in the history of both franchises, but recent memory as well.
For the Bruins, it's a history of losing to the Montreal Canadiens almost every spring, plus the years of 1988-92 which they reached the Cup Final twice and two Wales Conference Finals as well and couldn't win. It also includes the last two springs which include a Game 7 home overtime loss to Carolina and the loss to the Flyers after leading the series 3-0.
Vancouver's past include losing Game 7 to the Rangers in the 1994 Final, coming within a Nathan Lafayette shot off the post from tying the game. It also includes the Markus Naslund-Todd Bertuzzi years which they were the most entertaining team, yet dealt with playoff failures in the early 2000s. Their recent failures are the back-to-back series losses to the Chicago Blackhawks, which saw the worst of Roberto Luongo by the end of each series.
Now these two teams are set to take the ice tonight in Rogers Arena to begin a Stanley Cup Final which the matchup on paper might mean nothing. Then again, this is hockey, the matchup on paper doesn't always mean anything. The best three players in this series are probably both Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler. Boston can counter with Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, who might not be as good as the Vancouver three, at the very least are playing as well right now.
Just rewatch both series; the Sedins regained their scoring touch as particularly Henrik dominated the series with his passing. When he gets going, then brother Daniel starts to score, then Alex Burrows and before long, a more confident Canucks team emerges, which is troublesome for the entire league. That doesn't include Kesler, who's a jack of all trades for the Canucks, with his scoring, playmaking, and special teams ability. As for the Bruins, all three men carried the Bruins at times late in the series. Krejci, alone, has been the Bruins catalyst for the last 3 years, only no one really thinks of this as true. When they lost to the Flyers last year, it was due to Krejci's injury and no one else being able to score consistently for them. Along with Horton, who's been the sniper that Boston fans have wanted for years, not so much in huge goal numbers, but just a plain ability to get the puck past the goaltender. Meanwhile, Lucic just seems to be everywhere, skating hard and no one on the ice will take a run at him, for fear of how he'd answer back.
The rest of both teams' rosters are full of depth; players who are willing to step up when needed. It's no different than any other hockey team, only the quality of the depth. Zdeno Chara is the best defensemen in the series and almost certainly will be on Sedin duty this series. Tyler Seguin is the Bruins x-factor, who can carry the Bruins when they aren't scoring with his ability. Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley all provide big minutes and timely plays for Boston and Dennis Seidenberg has been key as Chara d-line mate. The Canucks depth includes Kevin Bieksa, a defensemen who while isn't a Chara on the blueline, can do anything that's needed by Vancouver. Chris Higgins has really led the team with his scoring because he's more a grinder than scorer. And then there's Raffi Torres, a man who will be called apon to give big hits to the Bruins, countering what Boston thinks as how they would win this series.
Finally, the goaltenders, where this series story will be told. Roberto Luongo has had all the expectation to reach this stage and after some tough times in the Chicago series, he's really carried the Canucks past the Predators in a low-scoring series and past a more high-octane Sharks squad. Meanwhile, what hasn't already been said about Tim Thomas. The man just competes in goal. He reminds me of Mike Richter to be honest, as both men were battler's in net and while both guys were at times susceptible to a soft goal, also can't be beat if they play at their best. The Tampa series is really what you need to know from Thomas, following up each loss with a near unstoppable performance (yes, I know he gave up 5 goals in Game 2, but followed that game with a shutout). My warning for anyone picking Vancouver; that means you're picking against Tim Thomas.
I've thought this series is a lot like a reverse 1994 with the Canucks in the Rangers role and Boston in Vancouver's role. Vancouver, like the Rangers, probably can do more of what they want to do on the ice, only that goaltender is there to shut them down, and when he does, Boston will counterpunch. This is a series that will go seven, only I see the home team losing and waiting another year.
Predicition: Bruins in 7