As expected, the Vancouver Canucks have made the journey all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Before this season started, the Canucks were predicted to go all the way along with the Philadelphia Flyers to compete on hockey’s biggest stage. The Flyers didn’t make it, but the ‘Nucks battled tough injuries all season and exorcised demons on the way.
The Boston Bruins will make their first appearance in the finals since 1990. The Original Six team hasn’t won a championship since the great Bobby Orr graced the ice of the Boston Garden. The Bruins can win their first Stanley Cup in 38 years on the backs of goaltender Tim Thomas and defenseman Zdeno Chara.
The Canucks faced adversity early in the playoffs, going against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the past two years, the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks took the Canucks to Game 7, but they didn’t have enough it make it three years in a row.
With the monkey finally off their backs, the Canucks virtually cruised to the finals on the backs of goaltender Roberto Luongo and American-born forward Ryan Kesler. Luongo is outstanding in the playoffs, sporting a 2.23 goals-against average and an impressive .922 save percentage. Kesler has 18 points in 18 games, which is impressive for a guy who is considered a two-way player. The twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin had a slow start in the playoffs but they have found their groove with 21 points and 16 points, respectively.
The Bruins had a rough go of it in the first round against their division rival, the Montreal Canadians, in a series that went seven games. In round two, the Bruins exorcised some demons of their own by sweeping the Flyers, the team that beat the Bruins in last year’s playoffs, by coming back from a 3-0 deficit. The Bruins’ Thomas has been equally impressive in the playoffs to Luongo, with a .929 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.
The Bruins’ Nathan Horton, who was acquired in the offseason from the Florida Panthers, never had a chance to play in the playoffs and acknowledged it in an interview with ESPN Boston.
“First couple of games, I was a little bit nervous trying to do too much,” Horton said. “But I think after playing in the first round in Game 7 and going through it with my teammates and really understanding how the playoffs work, I think I’ve learned to calm down. Everyone says that when you’re a veteran in the playoffs, you learn how to deal with the situations. So far so good. We’ve had opportunities that have been tough, but we stuck with it and in the end that’s all that matters.”
These two teams have very different styles of play: the Canucks pride themselves on skill and the Bruins pride themselves on defense and toughness.
It will surely be an interesting finals. Either a team that hasn’t won a Cup ever in its history or a team that hasn’t won one in three decades will be bringing the hardware home.