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Stanley Cup finals: A first look

Helene Elliott sizes up the matchup between Vancouver and Boston.

May 27, 2011|By Helene Elliott
  • Vancouver's Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin celebrate after defeating the San Jose Sharks during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.
Vancouver's Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin celebrate after defeating… (Andy Clark / Reuters )

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS. BOSTON BRUINS

Regular-season records: Vancouver 54-19-9—117 points, Boston 46-25-11—103.

How they got here: Vancouver eliminated Chicago in seven games, Nashville in six games and San Jose in five games. Boston eliminated Montreal in seven games, Philadelphia in four games and Tampa Bay in seven games.

How the Canucks can win:

• Make sure Ryan Kesler gets proper rest and gets to the rink on time. The versatile forward has established himself as a favorite for the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs. He had a groin injury during the series against San Jose but played a valiant, impressive finale and has seven goals and 18 points in 18 games.

• Continue to get offensive contributions from their defensemen. They have a mobile defense corps with Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff — who is expected to play after sustaining an upper-body injury during the San Jose series — and Alexander Edler.

• Make sure they score more than one goal to negate the one softie that Roberto Luongo seems to give up each game. Luongo (2.29 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in the postseason) has been strong in the clutch but is still prone to yielding bad goals once in a while.

• Ignore history. This is the franchise's third trip to the finals after losses in 1982 and 1994. No Canadian team has won the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. The pressure will be stifling in a hockey-crazed city and a hockey-crazed country, and the Canucks must use that as motivation, not an excuse to fold.

How the Bruins can win:

• Score a power-play goal once in a while. It's amazing they have gotten this far with a power-play unit that is merely five for 61 (8.2%) in the playoffs. Late in the Eastern Conference finals, Coach Claude Julien resorted to putting towering defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the net, sacrificing Chara's big shot for his big presence as a screen.

• Continue to block shots and support goaltender Tim Thomas as well as they have. Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk have been stalwarts. Thomas has been unflappable and his calm has been communicated to his teammates.

• Have Chara play as much as possible against twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin. His size and reach could go a long way toward neutralizing the slick forwards.

• Use their speed. Test Vancouver's defense with quick transitions. Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton excelled against Tampa Bay and must be as good against Vancouver. Rich Peverley and Patrice Bergeron give them depth and scoring punch.

• Ignore history. They haven't been to the finals since 1990 and have not won the Cup since 1972.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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