The Boston Bruins enter Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals as the heavy underdogs. Will this series be a cakewalk for the Vancouver Canucks or will Boston be able to pull of a surprising win and change everyones predictions?
After outlasting the other teams in their conferences, the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks will meet in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Canucks are making just their third visit to the Finals in team history, while the Boston Bruins are making their first visit since 1990.
Boston's plan of attack
The Bruins relied on a balanced attack of scoring and goaltending to earn 103 points during the regular season, and have showcased both in winning the Eastern Conference.
Tim Thomas has been at the top of his game for the majority of the postseason, and when he has faltered (three times allowing five goals against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals), he has made up for it with outstanding performances.
Thomas allowed just one goal in the Bruins final three wins against the Lightning, posting a save percentage of .989 over those games, and will need to be just as sharp against the offensive-minded Canucks. Thomas has dominated Vancouver in his career, winning all three of his starts and stopping 97 of the 98 shots they have fired at him. That’s a GAA of 0.33 and a save percentage of .990.
Offensively the Bruins have looked to David Krejci and Nathan Horton for goals (18 combined) and to Patrice Bergeron for outstanding overall play (4 G, 11 A). Horton and Krejci have combined for seven of Boston’s 12 GW goals so far this postseason.
On the downside for the Bruins, they have lost their last five Stanley Cup Finals appearances. Only Philadelphia (six straight) has lost more consecutive (current). Boston has also lost its past eight Stanley Cup Finals appearances against teams from Canada, and is 1-10 all-time against teams from Canada in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Craig Tattan believes that the Bruins will pull off the upset tonight, despite the heavy lines set against them. Thim Thomas has been amazing most of the season, if anyone can pull it off, why not him?
What Vancouver will rely on
After struggling to find their offensive groove for the first two rounds of the postseason, the Vancouver Canucks finally broke out against the Sharks in the Conference Finals. Vancouver averaged 4.0 goals per game last round, compared to just 2.3 in the first two series.
The Brothers’ Sedin enjoyed an excellent Conference Finals, combining for three goals and 15 assists. Henrik leads all players this postseason with 21 points (2 G, 19 A) and tied a Vancouver record for most points in a series when he registered 12 against the Sharks.
After not scoring a goal in his first nine games this postseason, Ryan Kesler has scored seven goals in his past nine games, and is one behind Daniel Sedin for the team lead. In goal, Roberto Luongo has finally quieted his skeptics, with a Conn Smythe performance so far. Luongo has posted a 2.29 GAA, while stopping 92.2 percent of shots fired at him, and has been in goal for all 12 of the Canucks wins.
This ability to put the puck in the net has led David Lawrence to provide his pick in support of the Cancuks tonight. Expect the Canucks to only improve as they continue to figure out Boston's defense.
What Game 1 comes down to
Both teams are arguably the best in each conference and this should be an excellent Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams have superb goaltending and both teams can light the lamp very well. The Canucks have won their past seven playoff series openers, which is not only a franchise record, but also the longest current streak of its kind for any NHL team.
Since 1995, the only other NHL team to win seven or more consecutive Game 1s was the Red Wings with a streak of nine in a row from 2007 to 2009. Luongo has an 8-1 career record in Game 1 of a playoff series. That's the highest such winning percentage for any goaltender in NHL history with at least five decisions, surpassing Ryan Miller and Johnny Mowers, each 7-1.
With those numbers, it’s hard to pick against Vancouver. I’m taking the Canucks.
NHL betting history provides a number of trends backing Vancouver, including these two:
VANCOUVER is 26-8 ATS (76.5%, +13.4 Units) after having won 3 of their last 4 games this season. The average score was VANCOUVER 3.7, OPPONENT 2.4 - (Rating = 2*).
VANCOUVER is 38-16 ATS (70.4%, +13.9 Units) when playing against a marginal winning team (Win Pct. 51% to 60%) this season. The average score was VANCOUVER 3.0, OPPONENT 2.2 - (Rating = 2*).
My Pick: Take the Canucks