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STANLEY CUP FINALS

How the Canucks and Bruins match up

Breaking down the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

June 01, 2011|By Helene Elliott

Forwards
Vancouver's Daniel Sedin followed the lead of twin brother, Henrik, by winning the NHL scoring title this season. Then there's Ryan Kesler, who tied Daniel for the team lead with 41 goals during the regular season and has 18 points in 18 playoff games. Throw in gritty Alex Burrows and role players such as Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre and it's an impressive group. Center Manny Malhotra's possible return from a serious eye injury would provide an emotional lift. Boston has a good amount of punch and speed, starting with the line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci (10 goals) and Nathan Horton. Patrice Bergeron, with a team-high 11 assists and a 62.3% winning percentage on faceoffs, and Brad Marchand also have made solid contributions. The Bruins have won 52.3% of their faceoffs; the Canucks have won 50.4%. Advantage: Vancouver.

Defense
Vancouver's mobile defense can support the offense well but sometimes gets sloppy in its defensive zone. Kevin Bieksa (+32 this season) and Christian Ehrhoff have added to their market values as impending unrestricted free agents. Alex Edler and the oft-injured Sami Salo help form a solid core. Boston has an imposing shutdown pair in the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara, a Norris Trophy finalist and league leader at plus-33, and steady but underrated Dennis Seidenberg. They'll see a lot of the Sedins. Tomas Kaberle has been a disappointment but could awaken; Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk are physical. Advantage: Boston.

Goaltending
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas are finalists for the Vezina trophy, awarded to the top goalie during the regular season, and both have continued to excel in the playoffs. Each has a 2.29 postseason goals-against average; Thomas' save percentage is .929 and Luongo's .922. Luongo yields the occasional soft goal but has silenced most of his critics. Advantage: Boston, but slightly.

Special teams
It's remarkable the Bruins have reached the final with a power play that is five for 61 (8.2%) in the playoffs. They've tried a lot of looks, including moving Chara in front of the net as a screen, but nothing has clicked. Their power-play during the season was subpar too, at 16.2% The Bruins' penalty killing has had a 79.4% success rate (58 of 72) in the playoffs, and it will be severely tested by the Canucks' skill. Henrik Sedin has recorded 10 of his 21 points on the power play and Daniel has recorded nine of his 16 while Vancouver had a manpower advantage. The Canucks are 17 for 60 (28.3%). Their penalty killers have killed 50 of 63 disadvantages, an 80.6% success rate. Advantage: Canucks.

Coaches
Both Vancouver's Alain Vigneault and Boston's Claude Julien have coached the Montreal Canadiens and both can coach tight, defense-first styles. Vigneault had to juggle his lineup all season because of injuries, especially on defense. Julien had his fair share of juggling too. Advantage: Even.

Elliott's pick
Canucks in six. They're deeper offensively and get a lot of scoring push from their defense.

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