In a matchup of big markets, the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals will finally get underway on Wednesday night, with the Boston Bruins visiting the Vancouver Canucks to open their series to determine who wins the greatest trophy in sports. It's a series hockey fans are dying to see with the passion of Vancouver and Boston pouring into what could be an epic battle.
Boston comes in having needed seven games to down a young Tampa Bay Lightning squad, winning that final game by a 1-0 count. They are led by Vezina Trophy candidate, and probably frontrunner, Tim Thomas, who was brilliant in Game 7 against Tampa.
The Canucks are also led by a Vezina candidate, Roberto Luongo. Prior to these Cup finals, Luongo was a guy noted more for his playoff futility than success. After a rough opening round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Luongo has been solid for Vancouver, as they knocked off the San Jose Sharks in five games to advance to this point.
The two sides met just once in the regular season, with the Bruins winning that one, 3-1. Despite that, Vancouver is still favored in the series, and rightfully so given the fact that they won the President's Trophy as the NHL's best during the regular season.
If Boston wants to have a shot in this series, they are going to have to succeed on special teams, particularly their power play. The Bruins have been miserable with the man advantage, converting just five of their 61 chances during this postseason.
For the Canucks, the key of course is their biggest offensive force, the Sedin twins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin both figure to play a major part of whatever the Canucks are able to do in this series, despite the presence of secondary scorers like Ryan Kesler. However, the Sedin twins have proven that they can be stopped, and you can expect to see plenty of Boston's dynamic defensive duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
In a matchup of physical teams, with one squad looking to break a long Cup drought (Boston) and the other looking for their first (Vancouver) we should be in for a terrific finale to an already stellar NHL season.
Game 1 of Boston vs. Vancouver will be featured on NBC, with the puck set to drop at 8 EST.