My 2011 Stanley Cup winner

With the Stanley Cup finals set to begin tonight, I have had a lot of time to think about who I think will win and why.

The Bruins haven’t lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1972 when they defeated the New York Rangers and Vancouver has never won a title in franchise history (they entered the league in 1970). Now, both teams stand just four wins away from winning it all.

My bet is on Vancouver to defeat the Bruins in the finals. Here are my three bold predictions for Vancouver in the series:

1. The Canucks will win the series four games to two.

2. Roberto Luongo will record at least one shutout in the series.

3. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver’s captain and leading scorer, will reach the 25-point plateau in the playoffs and win the Conn Smythe trophy.

Of course, these are only my predictions – don’t count out the Boston Bruins by any means.

The Bruins have come a long way to get here and aren’t going to back down. However, if they can’t find a way to stop the Canucks’ power play they may be out of luck. While Boston’s power play percentage is the lowest among teams with more than seven games played (8.2 percent), the Canucks, on average, are scoring on over 25 percent of their extra-man advantages.

Another key to the series is goaltending. Luongo and Tim Thomas have put up similar numbers in the playoffs, but Thomas is arguably the main reason that Boston has gotten this far. He stopped 24 shots in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to lead Boston to a (very fitting) 1-0 victory. Without him, Boston probably wouldn’t be four wins away from their first championship since the early 1970s.

Hockey fans know that this will not be a high-scoring series. The Canucks may have Ryan Kesler and the Sedin twins but Boston has Thomas in net and 6’9” defender Zdeno Chara to anchor the blueline. I will not be the first to say this, but the Canucks-Bruins matchup may be similar to the Canucks-Predators series from round two.

When Vancouver played Nashville, all but one game was determined by one goal. With world-class goaltenders at both ends of the rink, I expect a very similar series to take form between Boston and Vancouver. Vancouver played strong hockey against Nashville and managed to solve Pekka Rinne. The Canucks stuck with their game plan and worked together as a team to defeat a very defensive-minded Predators team.

At the beginning of the regular season I made my annual NHL predictions. My Stanley Cup finals prediction was half right – Washington versus Vancouver. Now, Vancouver is in the finals and poised to win their first Stanley Cup.

I think they’re ready. Do you?

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