Joey Kenward: Bruins or Bolts?
Who do you think the best opponent is for the Canucks to face in the Stanley Cup Finals?
The Canucks had a fantastic record against teams in the Eastern Conference this season, going 11-5-2 along the way.
However, they were unsuccessful in their meetings with both of the remaining teams they could face in the Stanley Cup Final.
It is difficult to compare the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning who are needing a seventh and deciding game to decide who gets the rights to travel to Vancouver for Game 1 next week. Judge for yourself who you think is the best match-up for the Canucks.
Let’s begin with Bruins, who won their fourth of five Stanley Cups the year the Canucks were granted a franchise in the NHL.
Boston finished atop the Northeast Division this year with a record of 46-25-11. They had the best goals against totals of any team in the East (195) and were decent against teams from the West (8-7-3). They were also very strong when playing Northwest Division clubs, going 4-1-0 along the way.
The lone meeting the Canucks had with Boston came February 26 at Rogers Arena when the Bruins skated away with a 3-1 victory. Manny Malhotra had the lone goal for Vancouver while local product Milan Lucic led the attack for the visitors with a goal and two assists. The Canucks out-shot the Bruins 28-25, which oddly enough was the second time in franchise history that Vancouver had more shots than Boston in a head-to-head meeting.
Lifetime, the Canucks are 25-66-17 against the Bruins, which includes a home ice record of 17-28-9. The Bruins have made just three visits to Rogers Arena since 2002.
Roberto Luongo made 22 saves in the loss to the Bruins this series, putting his career record against Boston at 11-10-3.
Tim Thomas, who led all NHL netminders this year in goals against average (2.00) and save percentage (.938), made 27 stops in the win. That improved his career record against the Canucks to 3-0-0, with his previous victories coming in shut-out performances.
The lone Canucks skater to have played for the Bruins is Andrew Alberts, who played 184 games in Boston from 2005-08. Cory Schneider is the lone Canucks player born in Massachusetts. While there are no former Canucks on the Bruins line-up, Lucic won a Memorial Cup in 2007 with his hometown Vancouver Giants while Kamloops, BC native Mark Recchi is the oldest player remaining in the NHL playoffs at the age of 43.
As for the Lightning, they capped off their season in second place in the Southeast Division with a record of 46-25-11. They scored more goals on home ice than any team in the NHL (137) and they were tied for the most home ice wins in the Eastern Conference (25). Surprisingly, they allowed more short-handed goals against than any team in the league (16) while scoring a league-worst one short-handed goal all year.
The Lightning posted their first ever road victory over the Canucks in their only meeting on December 11. On a night which saw Markus Naslund have his #19 retired to the rafters, the Bolts skated away with a 5-4 overtime victory. Daniel and Henrik Sedin each had a goal and an assist in the loss while Malhotra and Keith Ballard had the others. Steven Stamkos collected two goals and an assist for the Lightning while Martin St. Louis, who finished the season with 99 points, chipped in with a pair of assists.
Luongo did not play against Tampa Bay this year, as Schneider stopped 18 shots. Luongo is 13-12-2 with a combined 2.44 GAA and .923 save percentage all-time against the Lightning.
While no players on Vancouver’s roster have played for the Bolts, the Canucks would see a familiar face on Tampa Bay’s roster. Mattias Ohlund, who spent his first 11 seasons in the NHL with Vancouver, is the lone former Canucks player on their roster while fellow defenceman Eric Brewer hails from Vernon, B.C.
So, which team do you think is the best match-up for the Canucks in their quest for the Stanley Cup?