VANCOUVER – I once declared it didn’t require you to be Carnac the Magnificent to know the Bruins were going to win the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins had just defeated Philadelphia in Game 3 of the second round to go up 3-0 in that series. It was pretty apparent there was something magical about this Peter Chiarelli/Claude Julien production.
Well, Carnac might be able to pick the Bruins to take down Vancouver, but I just can’t do it.
It’s foolish of me to pick against the Bruins. When they were down 0-2 to Montreal, I was already starting to worry how I could fill eight weeks or blogging with draft coverage. When the Philadelphia series started, I weighed the different elements of both teams and picked the Flyers in six. Both times the Bruins proved as resilient as a team could be.
I finally went with Boston over Tampa Bay in seven games, which proved prophetic thanks to the David Krejci-Nathan Horton connection and a couple spectacular games from Tim Thomas in goal.
Now here we are 90 minutes from the start of the Stanley Cup Final with the Canucks, the Bruins have turned away all comers and I’m still supposed to make a studied decision between the Bruins and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks, and not let the magic that I’ve witnessed, in-person affect me?
Well, that’s just the way it goes. If ever there was a team that could match the Bruins and the masterful netminding of Thomas, it’s the Canucks and Roberto Luongo. I’m far from a Luongo worshiper but can still appreciate that he’s come under some unfair criticism over the years and is still a great goaltender.
Although the Bruins keep telling us they’ve faced some great forwards throughout these playoffs, only Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos can hold a candle to Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Remember, Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta enjoyed some success against the Bruins. And Stamkos and a number of the Flyers’ forwards were banged up as they attempt to burn Boston. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are definitely up to the task against the twins, but on the road it’s going to be difficult to keep the matchup in the Bruins’ favor. And where does that leave the Bruins’ other four defensemen when asked to slow down Ryan Kesler’s line and the rest of Vancouver’s more-skilled, speedy forwards?
On the back end, the Canucks definitely have most diverse corps of defensemen among Boston’s postseason opponents. With Christian Ehrhoff back to provide offense, Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard can continue to play their sound stay-at-home game. When a team sports a solid two-way veteran like Sami Salo on its third pair, it’s definitely loaded.
I’m not even going to devote much of my time and effort to the special teams match-up. I’m sure the Bruins’ penalty kill is going to return to its solid form from before Game 6 of the Tampa Bay series. But they’re not going to be able to totally stifle the Canucks’ power play. And the Bruins’ power play … well, let’s just look at it as the Great Pumpkin and we’re all Linus. When that thing finally shows up, that’s when I’ll believe it exists. And the Bruins have given us no reason to believe it’ll arrive before Halloween.
There’s no doubt the Bruins hold an intangible edge considering all they’ve overcome over the course of the last six weeks. They’ve bounced back from game and series deficits, shook off some performances that would’ve made some teams quit the sport and dealt with a hailstorm of criticism from around the league.
The Canucks, though, have had to deal with some lofty expectations that are 10 times worse north of the border. They also had to vanquish their long-time nemesis – much like the Bruins and Montreal/Philadelphia – Chicago in a series that nearly ended with the Canucks going down in Bruins-like infamy.
Instead of being blinded by the charm of Boston’s run to this point, I’m going to go with reason and what I see on the stats sheet and on the rosters for both club.
My pick: Vancouver in 6