This might just happen to be Vancouver's year. For all of the talent on their roster, the hockey gods have helped them along with a few breaks to get them where they are. But, it happens to be the year of Tim Thomas, and you can take that to the bank. It is so much his year that he is apparently predicting the outcome of games in his dreams. Last night, in what was the most exciting 1-0 game I have had the privilege of watching in quite some time, Thomas and company sealed a group ticket to meet the Canucks in the Finals. No matter who the winner was to be between Tampa and Boston, Vancouver was looking at some long plane trips across the states.
Stanley Cup Preview: It has been a long wait for the Bruins and Canucks.
I am not sure if Vancouver was watching, or if they care too much who their opponent was going to be, but they missed a hell of a game if they chose to look away. Boston was the dominant team and the rightful winners, though Tampa had many strong moments and it was anyones games up till the final seconds. Even though Thomas recorded his second shutout of the series it was Roloson who was standing on his head ending the night with 37 saves, many of which were in tight. This game had everything including a show of courage from Tampa's big gun Stamkos who took a shot directly to the nose. Something that might easily be overlooked due to the hype surrounding the game was the fact that no team took a penalty. There were maybe a few instances where a call could have been made, but for the most part these teams played very patient and mature hockey. If Boston can keep that up it will spell disaster for Vancouver who seems to get a surge from their special teams play.
Nathan Horton scored his 8th of the year and first Cup clinching goal late in the 3rd off of a beautiful Krejci pass. Look to both of these names to be big for Boston in the finals. Some of the buzz around the preview of the 2 teams left is that Boston just plain lacks the superstar power that Vancouver has under their sleeves. Boston is a deep team, they just lack names like Sedin or Kesler. My two cents is that this could end up being a difference maker though I am inclined to say Boston has enough talent and production from a variety of players to make it happen. Krejci has more goals than any Canuck and most of the Sedin's production has come on the power-play. Kesler and Burrows are the ones I see making a larger difference, with Lucic and Bergeron packing a hard punch to the Vancouver line-up for Boston.
In fact, the Canucks have only mustered up 1 goal against Thomas and the Bruins in their last 3 meetings and that was in a game they dropped 3-1. In their lifetime of meetings, Boston has owned Vancouver, winning a vast majority of the games. Boston, it seems is not a friendly place to Canuck's fans and neither team is a common friend of Lord Stanley's Cup. The Canucks are the only Canadian team to have never lifted the Cup and Boston has not done it since the 1971-72 season which was the year after Vancouver became a team in the NHL. As it is with baseball too, both Chicago and Boston understand the word drought.
Both teams want this badly. When looking back at the year, Vancouver finished first in the league and Boston finished 6th. It took both teams 7 games to win the first round and both teams have lost 6 games total in the playoffs. However, Boston swept the mighty Flyers in round 2. I find the games from the Boston playoff games to have been more exciting to watch and maybe even more hard fought; which could give them a push in conditioning, but could have also made them more tired. Neither team has many players with experience wining the cup and both teams have had to rely heavily on their goaltender to get here.
I have a lot of possible scenarios playing out in my head, but the fact that these teams have rarely played each other makes them seem far fetched. Vancouver is a well positioned team with strong defense and explosive forwards. You could say the same about the Lightning and look how that turned out for Boston who has been moving the puck so effectively in recent games. If the Boston can continue to transition out of their zone and into the offensive zone as well as they have, I think the Nucks will have a good run for their money. If Vancouver can persuade Boston to take penalties then it will be Boston who does the chasing.
This might be the factor that I am looking for to decide a winner. Like I said in the opening paragraph, this is the year of Tim Thomas. His season seems paved in gold while his attitude and personality make him a great example of a top-notch player all around. He has made enough highlight reel saves to fill a recording of Braveheart and his team is surging off his energy. However, I am making no predictions for this series except that it will surely be exciting to watch.