Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Final picks

It's come down to this. One final best of seven series will decide once and for all who the best of the NHL is for the 2010-2011 season. Here it goes: Boston vs. Vancouver.

Admittedly, I have a little bit of a bias here. Colin is a BIG Vancouver fan and has been hoping his team would be here, well, for 40 years, but especially since the beginning of the season. They've always been my "second" favorite team so, with Edmonton not playing, it's been a natural for me to cheer the Nucks along the way. That said, let's talk get down to the nitty gritty of this series.

That's what it will be: gritty. Both of these teams like to play the body and they have the size to put their money where their mouth is (has anyone seen how huge Chara is!?). Considering that's the way that both teams play, it's surprising to see that their line ups are relatively healthy for this point in the season. Boston is dressing everyone, by the looks of things, and Vancouver, while short a few defensemen, isn't too far behind...far better than the carnage these wrecking ball teams have left in their wake as they trudged towards Lord Stanley's cup.

If history counts for anything, Boston won the only game the two teams played against each other this season. In fact, they've won the majority of the games these teams have played against each other in the last several seasons. We'll see if that matters.

Both teams are Cup-hungry. Boston has not seen the cup in years. Many, many long years. The Nucks have never won the cup.

Both teams have great goalies with nearly identical goals against and save percentages for the playoffs. Both have proved to be able to be game changers and have had opportunity to carry their teams. That said, Luongo is coming off of an outstanding game 5 performance, facing a whopping 56 shots in double OT, to defeat the sharks where Thomas seemed a little bit shaky as the Bruins battled to finish off Tampa.

Let's talk d-men. Chara is a beast and has earned his place in the finals. The rest of Boston's defensive core are no slouches either. That said, with guys like Bieksa working to earn their multi-dollar sign salaries with flare, it could be said that Vancouver's defense is by far the deepest in the league. They can expect production from every guy and have given at least nine players play-off ice time. Good thing considering the few injuries plaguing the Nucks are behind the blue line.

Now let's check out front. Stats from the forwards are nothing to frown at for either team but, again, I like the depth of Vancouver. Henrik, Daniel and Kesler compared to Horton and Lucic. Comparing fourth lines for the two teams is, in my mind, a little like comparing apples and oranges. It will be especially exciting to see what happens to the energy on the ice if, as anticipated, Manny Malhotra does, in fact, find his way to the ice for the playoffs.

The big difference between these two teams though is special teams. Like I've said about Boston before, they're just missing something when it comes to special teams - power play stats and penalty kill are lacking. That has the potential to be deadly playing against Vancouver, who's power play had it's way with Nashville and the Sharks. This will be especially important if Vancouver manages to keep their guys out of the box and off the ice, giving the Sedins a chance to play and utilize the team's strength as a 5 on 5 team.

So here goes nothing: Vancouver in 6 for the Cup.

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