May 312011
 

There has been a lot of chatter the last few weeks about the Vancouver Canucks’ status as “Canada’s Team.”

In particular, there seems to be a palpable desire on the part of some Canuck fans to see the hometown team embraced to the loving bosom of the rest of Canada. To no one’s surprise, this love hasn’t exactly been reciprocated.

A friend with roots to a different Canadian province explained this resistance pretty well. To paraphrase:

“The rest of Canada already looks at Vancouver with resentment. It’s Lotus Land – the land of wealth. It’s beautiful. You guys don’t have any winter. You’re a two-hour flight to Vegas. You just had the Olympics. Work/life balance actually matters here. And yet, now you spoiled douchebags get to have the Stanley Cup too? F-that.”

Even in all the talk about “Canada’s Team,” the consensus seems to be the Canucks are roughly 7-14 days away from enjoying their first Stanley Cup victory.

James Mirtle posted an interesting piece comparing Boston and Vancouver in a number of statistical categories.

To add some “sober second thought” to the local Cup hoopla, and in honour of Vancouver’s 17 years between Cup Final appearances, here are 17 reasons why Boston could win the Stanley Cup.

1. East vs. West Exhibit #1: The last four Eastern teams to win Game Seven in the Conference Final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Overall, Conference Final, Game Seven-winning teams are 7-2 in the Cup Final since the East/West format was introduced in 1994.

2. East vs. West Exhibit #2: Since the East/West Conferences were created in 1994, there have been four Stanley Cup Finals with a distance greater than 3000 kilometres between each team. The Eastern Conference Champion has won every Final:

Carolina over Edmonton in 7 (2006)
Tampa Bay over Calgary in 7 (2004)
New Jersey over Anaheim in 7 (2003)
New York over Vancouver in 7 (1994)

According to Google Maps, it is roughly 4028 kilometres between Vancouver and Boston.

3. Groin injuries, which Ryan Kesler is suspected to have, can be tricky to rehabilitate. An injured Kesler is a big break for Boston. Kesler is Vancouver’s most valuable forward. They need him healthy to neutralize David Krejci’s line. Just as importantly, Kesler is expected to win battles against Zdeno Chara in front of the Bruins net on the powerplay.

4. Tim Thomas. To sum: The likely Vezina Trophy winner just posted the best regular season save percentage of all-time. He also called his shot during the Eastern Conference Final, saying Boston would beat Tampa Bay. He backed this up, posting a shutout in Game 7 against the Lightning. Currently his post-season save percentage is higher than Luongo’s. A hot Tim Thomas could really cause Vancouver nightmares.

5. Small Sample Size Exhibit #1: Tim Thomas hasn’t lost to Roberto Luongo since March 27, 2006, when the latter was a Florida Panther. Thomas made 45 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss that night.

6. Small Sample Size Exhibit #2: It’s only three games but under Alain Vigneault Vancouver has never scored more than two goals against Claude Julien’s Bruins:

February 26, 2001: Boston 3, Vancouver 1 (Thomas over Luongo)
February 6, 2010: Vancouver 2, Boston 2 (Vancouver shoot-out victory, Luongo over Tuukka Rask)
October 28, 2008: Boston 1, Vancouver 0 (Oct 28, 2008: Bos 1-0, Thomas over Luongo)

7. Scoring Depth Exhibit #1 Tyler Seguin: There isn’t a bottom-six player on the Canucks who has anywhere close to the offensive talent Seguin has. He’s a game-changer hiding in the weeds of Boston’s third line.

8. Scoring Depth Exhibit #2: If we go by the lineups posted by Matt, the bottom-six for Boston has scored 17 goals in the playoffs. Vancouver’s bottom-six? Just five goals. Boston might not have the Sedins, but their scoring depth (among forwards) trumps Vancouver’s.

9. Don Cherry always says if your team is winning you don’t mess with the lineup or team chemistry. The Canucks are about to do just that by returning Manny Malholtra to action. The romantic notion of Malholtra coming back to make an impact on the Cup Final should be tempered with the fact that he has two goals (for a total of two points) in 24 career playoff games.

10. Boston was the best team at 5-on-5 in the regular season and is the best team at 5-on-5 in the post-season.

11. If you look at the averages and norms of special team play, it is safe to assume Boston’s powerplay percentage (8.2%) will improve at some point.

12. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #1: Given Ryan Clowe’s injury, this becomes the first playoff series in which the Canucks’ defense will have to handle a talented power forward. Actually, it should read power forwards, as both Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will try and disrupt the crease around Roberto Luongo. Zdeno Chara might also get powerplay time in front of the net as well. Let’s not forget how Dustin Byfuglien’s dominance continues to haunt Vancouver fans.

13. Ghosts of Playoffs Past Exhibit #2: The Bruins feature many of the elements that have challenged the Canucks so far in these playoffs. Boston can lock down defensively as well as the Nashville Predators. Like Chicago, the Bruins have a top defensive pair (Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg) that can play against the Sedins. Like Chicago’s Dave Bolland, Boston’s Brad Marchand is also very skilled at becoming a distraction.

14. All the pressure is on Vancouver. Hard to believe, but a team from Boston is legitimately the underdog.

15. The all-time series is significantly slanted in Boston’s favour – they’re 66-25-17 against the Canucks.

16. When leading after two periods, Boston has yet to lose a game in these playoffs.

17. The Canucks won’t have played for a week since finishing off the Sharks on May 24th. Long layoffs have a tendency of coming back to haunt the teams that earn them. Just ask the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock, who admitted Detroit was rusty at the start of round two against San Jose.

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