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Found 1 result

  1. With the Stanley Cup Finals set to begin on Wednesday, June 1 at The Garage, Vancouver has a distinct advantage over Boston in two areas: their power play and overall team speed. So far in these playoffs, Boston's power play is clicking at a paltry 8.2% (5-for-61) compared to Vancouver's 28.3% (17-for-60) efficiency. Boston scored 0 goals in their first-round series against Montreal, 2 goals against Philly in Round 2, and 3 goals in their schizophrenic series against Tampa. And if you've seen many Bruins games since their trade for Kaberle, you'll know that his presence hasn't blended well with the rest of Boston's first unit — which generally includes Chara, Lucic, Horton, and Krejci. Most of the time they look dysfunctional, and although Chara may disturb Luongo in front of the net, I'd rather have him there than unleashing bombs from the point with Lucic and Horton banging around and sniffing for rebounds. The sheer fact that Boston has advanced to the Finals in an era where special teams usually play a decisive role in winning and losing is a remarkable testament to their 5-on-5 play, their collective resolve, and their good fortune. Vancouver, on the other hand, had the best power play in the regular season at 24.2%, and it's continued to be efficient throughout their playoff run, accounting for a lot of clutch goals. And since we're talking special teams, both penalty-killing units have been mediocre at best. The Canucks have killed 80.6% (58-for-72) of their short-handed situations, while the Bruins have killed 79.4% (50-for-63) of their penalties. Vancouver's other distinct edge is their team speed. When you think of getting in on the forecheck, as both Boston and Vancouver like to do, the Canucks have burners like Kesler, Raymond, Hansen, Torres, Burrows, and Lapierre who should wreak some havoc on Boston's blueline. Chara is obviously solid, but expect Torres to take a run or two at Chara, while the rest of the Canucks forecheckers should focus on hammering the other guys: Seidenberg, Kaberle, McQuaid, Ference, and Boychuk. Like Boston's forwards, their defense has size, but they're not the most mobile group, so Vancouver's game plan will be to use their speed to hit, cause confusion, and force turnovers. In contrast to Vancouver, Boston has very few speedsters. Despite the imposing size of guys like Lucic and Horton, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Chris Kelly will be key to disrupting Vancouver's quick and efficient breakout. If Boston is too slow to get in on the forecheck, though, Vancouver's slick passing and collective speed could help them accelerate the tempo, which is something Boston will want to slow down. Boston's toughest test so far in the playoffs was against Montreal, when Thomas played very well (unlike the Tampa series where he was pretty shaky), but Montreal's team speed and skill, along with an efficient power play, gave the Bruins all they could handle. It wasn't a good match-up for Boston, and although they squeaked through, Vancouver boasts a deeper, a more experienced, and a much tougher line-up than the Habs. So what about Boston? Where do they hold the advantage? Let's say that in goal, Vezina finalists Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo are a wash. Both are capable of playing at an elite level, and both have their bouts of inconsistency. But Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton are Boston's biggest difference makers, and their presence raises a few vital questions for the Canucks: 1. Will the Sedins and Burrows be able to win their fair share of puck battles to gain control in the offensive zone? 2. Will Chara, Lucic, and Horton succeed in causing chaos in and around Luongo's crease? And if so, how will Luongo handle the disturbance? 3. Boston has had a more balanced offensive attack in the playoffs than in the regular season with the emergence of Marchand, Seguin, and others. But Vancouver has more depth on their third and fourth lines, so the real question is whether Kesler, Raymond, Higgins, Bieksa, and Hamhuis can control the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line and prevent them from taking over games. In the lone regular- season game between the Canucks and Bruins, this line took over a tightly-contested affair that was played at the Bruins' speed. X-Factors: With the news that Manny Malhotra may be ready to play (and possibly even in Game 1), will he play his third-line role right away and be assigned to the Krejci line? Or will he begin on the fourth line, leaving Kesler and company to deal with Boston's best line? Either way, the Malhotra storyline will be fascinating to follow, because whatever role he plays should be galvanizing for Canuck fans and an emotional boost to the whole team. For the Bruins, Tyler Seguin has only played 7 games in the playoffs, but he has 6 points. If Boston is going to win, they'll need Seguin or Michael Ryder or Rich Peverley to give the Bruins the balanced scoring they've enjoyed through three rounds.