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Tale of the Tape Finals: Canucks vs. Bruins

Sunday, 29.05.2011 / 3:15 AM / Features
By Daniel Fung
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Tale of the Tape Finals: Canucks vs. Bruins

Team record: 54-19-9
Conf. seeding:
1st
League standing:
1st
2010.11 meeting:
1-3 L (FEB.26.11)
Team record: 46-25-11
Conf. seeding:
3rd
League standing:
7th
2010.11 meeting:
3-1 W (FEB.26.11)

ROBERTO LUONGO

It took until the fifth and final game of the Conference Final series against the Sharks before Roberto Luongo finally got some recognition for his work as he was named the first star in the 3-2 double overtime win that officially sent the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years. In truth, though, Luongo was a star that entire series even if he didn't earn many accolades along the way. The 31-year-old posted a 2.38 GAA and a .931 save percentage in the five-game series versus San Jose - numbers not quite as spectacular compared to what he put up against Nashville but certainly still quite sparkling. The Canucks hope they can expect more of the same from Louie in the Stanley Cup Final series - a series in which he will go up against a fellow Vezina Trophy finalist for the second time in these playoffs after out-dueling Pekka Rinne back in Round Two.

Some of Luongo's notable career firsts have come against the Bruins including his first career NHL game and victory (November 28, 1999) and his first career NHL shutout (December 27, 1999). It would seem fitting if his first career Stanley Cup championship could come versus Boston as well. In 25 career games played against the Bruins, Luongo has posted an 11-10-3 record with a 2.40 GAA and a .929 save percentage to go with four shutouts. After the first three rounds of the 2011 playoffs, Luongo now has an all-time record of 29-23 in post-season play with a 2.40 GAA and a .920 save percentage to go with three shutouts.

TIM THOMAS

Spectacular, shaky, unorthodox, inconsistent - all words that, depending on who you ask, can be used to describe Bruins' netminder Tim Thomas. But the one word that everybody will agree on that fits Thomas to a T is "winner" because winning is all he's done so far in these playoffs. The 37-year-old's numbers in Round Three against the Lightning were more average than astounding as he posted a 2.73 GAA and a .916 save percentage. He also had more than his fair share of off-nights surrendering four-or-more goals on four separate occasions but when he was on his game he was nearly unbeatable. Thomas posted two shutouts in the Conference Final including recording a 24-save performance in the seventh and deciding game to help his team reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 21 years.

Thomas may have a reputation of being unpredictable at times but whenever he's faced the Canucks in his career (which hasn't been often) he's been a brick wall. He has posted a perfect 3-0-0 record versus Vancouver in his career with an eye-popping 0.33 GAA and a .990 save percentage to go with two shutouts. He has only surrendered one goal on 98 shots faced in his career against the Canucks. Following the third round of these playoffs, Thomas has an all-time playoff record of 22-14 with a 2.23 GAA and a .928 save percentage along with three shutouts.

OFFENCE

Any concerns about the Canucks' ability to score goals following the first two rounds of the playoffs were seemingly put the rest in the Conference Final series against the Sharks. Vancouver tallied 20 goals over their five-game series versus San Jose for an average of four goals per game - albeit seven of the 20 goals came in Game Two - which is nearly two goals per game more than the 2.31 they averaged through the opening two rounds.

A big reason for Vancouver's offence breaking out in Round Three was thanks to the play of the Sedin twins who returned to their regular season form against San Jose combining for 18 points (4-14-18) versus the Sharks after managing just seven (2-5-7) in the series versus Nashville. Of the 20 goals Vancouver scored in Round Three, either Daniel or Henrik had a direct hand in 12 of those tallies.

The defence was also a major contributor to the offence in Round Three as blue-liners combined for eight goals against the Sharks. What the Canucks would like to see more of, however, is goals from their second and third lines - something that they leaned on in Round Two when the twins struggled but didn't see much of in Round Three. With the exception of power play markers, every single goal the Canucks scored from Game Three and onwards in the last series came on a Sedin line shift.

The Bruins are one of the highest scoring clubs in these playoffs averaging 3.22 goals-per-game although their numbers did take a slight dip during the Conference Final as they tallied just 21 goals over the course of that seven-game series.

Much like the Canucks did with the Sedin line, the Bruins leaned heavily on their top trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton to get them past the Lightning in the Conference Final as that unit combined for nine goals and 18 points. But when all cylinders are clicking, the Bruins have three lines that can do damage on the scoresheet with Marchand-Bergeron-Recchi on the second line and with highly-skilled forwards Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin lining up alongside Chris Kelly on their third unit.

Of course whenever a team has Zdeno Chara on the back end you know they are a threat to score from the blue-line as well. Chara struggled against the Lightning managing just one assist in the seven-game series but some of the offensive slack was picked up by Tomas Kaberle who notched five assists in the Conference Final. The Bruins' scoring depth from the back end goes beyond just Chara and Kaberle. Dennis Seidenberg (along with Kaberle) leads the Bruins in points among defencemen with eight while Johnny Boychuk leads all team blue-liners with three goals so far in the playoffs.

DEFENCE

The Canucks had to be pretty satisfied with their defence in Round Three as they only surrendered 13 goals against a talent-laden Sharks team in the Conference Final but what they would like to avoid is giving the Bruins the same number of open shots in this series as they allowed the Sharks to have.

Counting only regulation time play, the Canucks gave up an average of 33.8 shots per game to the Sharks while only averaging 22.4 shots per game themselves - the latter number would have been even lower had they not managed 38 shots in both Games One and Two of the series, respectively.

Even with the large number of shots surrendered, where the Canucks did a good job of limiting the Sharks' opportunities was on even-strength play. Vancouver surrendered just six even-strength goals in five games during the Conference Final versus San Jose. It was just the opposite for the Bruins in their Conference Final series against the Lightning as 16 of the 21 goals they gave up came at even-strength.

The Bruins did a better job tightening up their defensive zone play late in the series holding the Lightning to just 40 total shots on goal over the final two games of the series. They had given up an average of 35.4 shots per game through the first five contests of that series.

As far as match-ups go, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis will be tasked with going up against the Krejci line while Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be given the assignment of neutralizing the Sedin unit. Considering the Bruins' team size and their willingness to engage physically, don't be surprised if the Canucks again decide to tweak their top-six defence group to favor the likes of Aaron Rome (6'1", 218 lbs.) and Andrew Alberts (6'5", 218 lbs.) as opposed to Keith Ballard (5'11", 208 lbs.) and Christopher Tanev (6'2", 185 lbs.).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Outside of their penalty kill stumbling in the early part of the Conference Final against the Sharks, special teams were nearly immaculate for the Canucks in Round Three.

The Canucks gave up five power play goals on the first five shorthanded scenarios they faced to open the Conference Final but went on to kill off 15 of the final 17 Sharks' power plays in the series. Vancouver comes into this series with a penalty kill operating at 80.6 percent effectiveness (14 goals allowed on 72 times shorthanded) throughout the playoffs.

Vancouver's power play showed no ill-effects in Round Three whatsoever. They scored in four of the five games of the series - the lone exception being Game Five when they only had one power play opportunity - and finished the series going 9-for-24 with the man-advantage (37.5 percent efficiency). Their overall power play in the playoffs has clicked at 28.3 percent efficiency (17 goals on 60 opportunities).

The Bruins' special teams have been more of an adventure in these playoffs but they did seem to stabilize their penalty kill in the latter part of the series against the Lightning. They killed off 10 of the final 13 Lightning power play opportunities in the Conference Final with the three power play goals they surrendered all coming in a single outing. Their overall penalty kill in the playoffs has been operating at 79.4 percent effectiveness (13 goals allowed on 63 times shorthanded).

If this series does turn into a special teams battle, the Bruins' dreadful power play might end up being their downfall. The good news for Boston is their power play tallied more in the last round against the Lightning than they did in the first two rounds combined. The bad news is it was still just a mediocre 3-for-24 (12.5 percent efficiency). Boston, who opened the post-season without a power play goal in their first nine games and has tallied power play goals in just four of 18 games played, has an overall conversion rate of just 8.2 percent on the man-advantage in these playoffs (five goals on 61 opportunities).

THE SET-UP

Will the third time be a charm? The Vancouver Canucks (54-19-9) certainly hope so as they find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final for just the third time in their franchise history - the first time since 1994 - and they'll be going up against the five-time champions Boston Bruins (46-25-11).

This series features two teams ending lengthy droughts without Final appearances. The Canucks, as mentioned, are making their first trip in 17 years while the Bruins are back for the first time since 1990. Both teams are also looking to end Cup Final losing streaks as well. Vancouver is 0-for-2 all-time in Stanley Cup Final series while Boston has lost the last five straight Final series they've been involved in.

Boston is more like Nashville, I would say, more of a defensive team structure. They have got some big bodies that can bang around. For us, we've seen pretty much every type of style. I think what matters most is the way we play and execute our game plan. - Roberto Luongo sizing up the Bruins.

The Presidents' Trophy winning Canucks had 14 more points in the regular season standings than the Bruins, who finished as the third seed in the East after winning the Northeast Division title with 103 points. The Bruins beat the Canucks in the only head-to-head meeting between the clubs this season scoring a 3-1 win at Rogers Arena on February 26. Milan Lucic broke a 1-1 deadlock by scoring the eventual game-winner with just under five minutes left in regulation as Boston managed to sneak away with a victory despite being out-shot 28-25 including 10-4 in the final frame.

HISTORY LESSON

The Canucks are seeking their first-ever Stanley Cup championship in the 40-year history of the franchise having come up short in their two previous trips to the Final in 1982 and 1994, respectively.

In 1982, the Canucks went head-to-head against a New York Islanders team in the midst of their dynasty years and were heavy underdogs facing a squad that had finished atop the league with the most points during the regular season. It was the same story again in 1994 with the Canucks meeting the Presidents' Trophy winning New York Rangers in the Final. The shoe's on the other foot this year for Vancouver, however, as they'll enter the Cup Final as the favored team.

Since the NHL took over ownership of the Stanley Cup, only three teams - the Montreal Canadiens (23), the Toronto Maple Leafs (13) and Detroit Red Wings (11) - have won more championships than the five owned the Bruins. However, it's been a long wait for the fans in Beantown to have a chance to celebrate a Bruins' Stanley Cup win.

Should the Bruins emerge victorious in this series, it would mark just the third Stanley Cup championship in the NHL's expansion era (1967.68 and onward) for Boston. They captured their first expansion era Cup in 1970 - one season prior to the Canucks joining the NHL - with a four-game sweep over the St. Louis Blues. Two seasons later in 1972, they captured their fifth and most recent championship with a 4-2 series win over the New York Rangers.

This is the first-ever playoff series meeting between the Canucks and Bruins. Vancouver trails the all-time regular season series between the two clubs 25-66-17.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

The Canucks, by virtue as their status as the NHL's best regular season team, went into the post-season favoured to come out of the Western Conference but it was hardly an easy path to the Final.

The Canucks narrowly averted disaster in Round One after squandering a 3-0 series lead to the Chicago Blackhawks and needing an overtime session in the seventh and deciding game to finally vanquish the defending champs. From there, they endured a tough, grinding series with the Nashville Predators with five of the six games played being decided by a single goal.

Vancouver's so-called "easy series" came in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks - easy, perhaps, because it took just five games to complete but certainly not when you look at how closely each game was contested with the exception of Game Two which was a 7-3 blowout victory by the Canucks. Vancouver had to fend off a San Jose team that seemed to be starting to hit their stride over the final two games of the series - a task made even more difficult after losing two key blue-liners in Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome midway through the series. The Canucks also learned during the course of the last series that they won't have Mikael Samuelsson back for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Canucks did get some positive, if not miraculous, news on the injury front during the break in the Final as Manny Malhotra - who suffered a serious eye injury back mid-March and was thought to be lost for the season - has been cleared to return to game action. He could suit up as early as Game One of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins had to survive two seven-game series during these playoffs to make it to the Cup Final.

They were pushed to the brink by the Montreal Canadiens in Round One as they dropped the first two games of that series but managed to bounce back and eventually win it thanks to an overtime victory in Game Seven. Their easy series came the following round in the Conference Semi-Final when they ran into a Philadelphia Flyers team that self-imploded allowing the Bruins to stomp all over them in a 4-0 series sweep.

The Conference Final against the Lightning, however, was no cake walk. The Bruins had several "bend" moments in Round Three which included nearly blowing a three-goal third period lead in Game Two which would have put them in a 0-2 hole in the series, squandering a three-goal lead in Game Four to allow the Lightning to square the series at 2-2, and watching their special teams fall apart in Game Six and giving Tampa Bay a chance to force a seventh and deciding game in the series. Luckily for Boston, they never did have to endure the "break" moment as they managed to clinch the series with a 1-0 victory in Game Seven.

Aside from a concussion scare for Patrice Bergeron heading into the Round Three (he returned to play the final five games of the series against the Lightning), the Bruins have managed to get through the entire playoffs relatively unscathed and should have all hands on deck when the series opens minus Marc Savard who is out for the remainder of the season with a concussion.

Vancouver...is playing very good, firing on all cylinders. All I can say is, we're going to go and give it our best shot. This team finds a way to get it done, one way or another. - Bruins netminder Tim Thomas on matching up against the Canucks.

EXPERIENCE FACTOR

The Canucks have only two players with experience suiting up in a Stanley Cup Final game but just one of them will be available to them in this series. Raffi Torres was a member of the 2006 Edmonton Oilers squad that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against the Carolina Hurricanes but fell short of capturing the grand prize as his Oilers fell in seven games to Cam Ward and the 'Canes.

Mikael Samuelsson is the only other Canuck with Stanley Cup Final experience having appeared in two Final series both with the Red Wings - including winning the championship in 2008 - but he will not be available to the Canucks in this series.

The Bruins have four players on their roster with prior Stanley Cup Final appearances including two who have their respective names etched on Lord Stanley's Mug: Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton.

Recchi has been to two Cup Finals - with the Penguins in 1991 and most recently with the Hurricanes in 2006 - winning both times. Thornton was a member of the 2007 Anaheim Ducks team that knocked off the Ottawa Senators in the Final.

The other Bruins with Cup Final experience are Chris Kelly, who was on the Senators' team that lost to Thornton's Ducks in 2007, and Andrew Ference, who helped the Calgary Flames make it all the way to the Cup Final before they fell in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

WATCH IT

All games in the Stanley Cup Final between the Canucks and Bruins can be seen by Canadian viewers coast-to-coast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and in French on RDS. For viewers in the United States, Games 1-2 and 5-7, if necessary, can be seen on NBC. Games 3-4 can be seen on VERSUS. All games in this series face off at 5 pm PT. Listen to every Vancouver Canucks playoff game live on the TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca. All games will also be carried on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. He is a regular contributor to Canucks.com and his writing has appeared in Canucks Magazine, BC Lions Magazine and TourismVancouver.com. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at dfung_sports@hotmail.com.

CANUCKS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Bruins

Player GP G A P +/-
Manny Malhotra
1 1 0 1 1
Maxim Lapierre
2 1 0 1 1
Christian Ehrhoff
1 0 1 1 0
Raffi Torres
1 0 1 1 1
Aaron Rome
1 0 0 0 0
BRUINS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Canucks

Player GP G A P +/-
Milan Lucic
1 1 2 3 3
Nathan Horton
1 1 0 1 2
Patrice Bergeron
1 1 0 1 0
David Krejci
1 0 1 1 2
Dennis Seidenberg
1 0 1 1 1
IN THE INFIRMARY

For the Canucks...

D Christian Ehrhoff (shoulder) and D Aaron Rome (head) are expected to be ready for the start of the series. F Manny Malhotra (left eye surgery) has been cleared to return to game action. F Mikael Samuelsson (leg) is out for the remainder of the season.

For the Bruins...

F Marc Savard (concussion) is out for the remainder of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

1st – Playoff series meeting between the Canucks and Bruins.

1 – Ex-Bruin on the Canucks roster: Andrew Alberts.

1 – Massachusetts-born player on the Canucks roster: Cory Schneider (Marblehead).

2 – BC-born players on the Bruins roster: Milan Lucic (Vancouver) and Mark Recchi (Kamloops).

3rd – Stanley Cup Final appearance for the Canucks in franchise history (0-2 all-time).

18th – Stanley Cup Final appearance for the Bruins in franchise history (5-12 all-time).

38 – Career playoff points for David Krejci (17-21-38) entering this series, the franchise leader among all active Bruins.

40th – All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 16-23 all-time record in playoff series.

65 – Career playoff points for Henrik Sedin (19-46-65) entering this series, the franchise leader among all active Canucks.

112th – All-time playoff series the Bruins have been involved in. Boston has a 52-59 all-time record in playoff series.

DID YOU KNOW?

Winning the Presidents' Trophy hasn't historically always led to playoff success but for teams that have won the regular season title (since its inception in 1985.86) and managed to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, their track record of going on to take home hockey's ultimate prize is near perfect.

Of the nine all-time previous Presidents' Trophy winners to have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, seven have come away that season as the Stanley Cup champions as well. Only the 1990 Boston Bruins (lost 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers) and the 1995 Detroit Red Wings (lost 4-0 to the New Jersey Devils) failed to seal the deal after winning the Presidents' Trophy and making it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Canadian teams, incidentally, are a perfect 2-0 at capturing the Stanley Cup when winning the Presidents' Trophy and advancing to the Final in the same year. The two teams north of the border to accomplish the feat are the 1987 Edmonton Oilers (beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3) and the 1989 Calgary Flames (beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2).

The last Presidents' Trophy winners to take the Stanley Cup were the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. They knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.