June 02, 2011

Don't Count Out the Bruins

You may recall the playoff bracket posted to this blog before the first round of the playoffs began, and specifically, the prediction of Boston over Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Finals. And as painful as it is, that pick still stands, and here’s why.

The formula for a Stanley Cup has long been accepted as solid goaltending, stingy defense, and grit. These are the most important factors, and they grow more impactful as a team runs deeper into the post-season.

In a rough-and-tumble sport where toughness is only magnified during the playoffs, players get worn down, and it will often be the team that can rough the other up enough to earn an edge in fatigue that has the advantage.

The Bruins are bigger, and badder than the Canucks, there is no arguing that. They have sandpaper in their bottom six, top six, and starting six d-men. No matter which line or pairing they have on the ice, Boston will be constantly grinding away at the Canucks stamina.

When you play that gritty style, goals will be hard to come by. That was evidenced by Game 1 last night. The series will come down to which side can dominate defensively and between the pipes. Both of those traits happen to be Boston’s specialty.

Expect the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg to give the Sedin twins more than their fair share of trouble. If Hank and Danny had trouble with Nashville’s Weber-Suter pairing, how will they handle maybe the best duo in the league?

When the Sedins do not score, as was the case in the Preds series, they have to rely on secondary scoring. In the second round, it was Kesler who provided virtually all of it. But that was against a sub-par bottom four defensemen.

The Bruins have three pairings that can play, and they play stingy. If Chara and Seidenberg can control the Sedins, it will not be as easy for the bottom nine to score goals. What makes it worse is they have to score on Tim Thomas.

If Pekka Rinne was a test for Vancouver, they were being tested for this series, because Tim Thomas might be the best there is this year. And in this playoff run, he has developed a habit of showing up big in the biggest games.

If you combine that factor with the grit that the Bruins bring, which will likely result in a worn, tired, and likely injury depleted Canuck team, it adds up to a Boston team that will gain more of an advantage as the series stretches longer.

The Canucks have the skill to take games early on, but they have had trouble closing out series, and the Bruins have a knack for coming back. Don’t be surprised if Vancouver blows a lead to lose the series.

Vancouver fans certainly hope that will not be the case, because after all the anticipation, an ending like that would be heartbreaking.