Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/30/11 at 10:20 AM ET
Rest assured, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins will be chirping at one another like age-old enemies seconds after the puck drops in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. But to say there is any rivalry, what with six games between the two in six seasons, is stretching the things way past the breaking point.
This figures to be an entertaining series. Big-name goalies, strong defenses and lots of variety and skill among the forwards. I’ll let others break down all the stats here because I think it’s a clean sheet for both sides. There has been plenty of time for both sides to get ready, so forget fatigue. Neither side will be any more exhausted than what we have seen from past finalists. So, instead of breaking down power plays and penalty killing, let’s look at some other storylines worth watching.
Travel—The distance between Vancouver and Boston is approximately 2498.5 miles, meaning I don’t envy my friends at NHL.com stuffing themselves into coach seats for this series. But the flights certainly shouldn’t be a hassel for the players. Both teams will use charter flights that have lots and lots of creature comforts (Hot towel, Mr. Luongo?). Of the two, the Canucks are used to the rigors of travel, but let’s face it, being in the air shouldn’t have much of an impact on these strapping lads.
Pressure—Pressure, shemesser. After three rounds of playoffs, do you expect either the Canucks or Bruins to wilt under the heat now? Didn’t think so. Rather both sides see a golden opportunity, For the Canucks, it’s to win their first Stanley Cup and for the Bruins it’s to nab their first since 1972. Who wouldn’t want the chance to say “I was on the Bruins/Canucks team that ended a xx year Stanley Cup drought.”
The cities—If you haven’t been to Vancouver, plan a visit. It is one of the most beautiful cities not only in North America, but the world. For its part, Boston is loaded with history and if folks making the trip in for the Final catch a break, the Red Sox might be home at Fenway Park too. The TD North Garden isn’t the old Boston Garden—which is both good and bad—but the place rocks ever bit as much as the Rogers Centre.
Psyche out—The green guys in Vancouver can really make me laugh. They’re sort of a scaled-down version of baseball’s Philly Phanatic. But the Bruins could win this battle if their front office read Kevin Dupont’s suggestion in Sunday’s Boston Globe, namely to have the Bruins’ mascot—a very big bear in cause you’re stumped—sit next to the visitor’s penalty box. I laugh every time I think about it.
Fashion sense—This Canucks team will look marvelous in their blue, green and white for the ‘11 Final. Their last trip (1994) saw them wear the gold, black and red Halloween uniforms that were spawned from the “Big V” jerseys of the Harold Snepsts era that, not coincidentally, got swept away by the Islanders in 1982.
As for the Bruins, you don’t get a better uniform than black, gold and white.
Sentimental favorites—Should Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra make it back into the lineup at some point after his very serious eye injury, then you have quite an inspirational tale. Sami Salo, 36, stars as Vancouver’s elder statesman who hasn’t won a Cup in 2011.
Boston’s Mark Recchi, now 43, is hoping to go out—but maybe not, Rex defies age—in a blaze of glory with the Stanley Cup overhead. Marc Savard won’t be in the Boston lineup, but you can bet his teammates would like nothing better than winning a championship for him after all his recently concussion-related struggles.
More motivation—If the Canucks are smart—and they are—Trevor Linden should be seen prominently before all home games. If the Bruins are smart—and they are—then Cam Neely should be a visible presence in Beantown, and I’ll bet the Bruins are hoping one Robert Gordon Orr can arrange his schedule to take in a some shinny over the next couple weeks. No matter what, expect to see Orr flying through the air after scoring the Cup-clinching goal against St. Louis. That never gets old.
Diverting to another issue completely, can someone like Linden or Orr present the Stanley Cup? Having Gary Bettman booed every year no matter the city is a tradition of sorts, but it’s time to turn the page and make the post-victory atmosphere a cheers-only zone.
Who to watch—Eastern seaboarders in all likelihood won’t be overly familiar with Henrik and Daniel Sedin and probably need a refresher course in Roberto Luongo. All are worth the effort, as is getting familiar with Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows.
For Boston, Nathan Horton’s first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs has proven to be quite a hit. Also watch for David Krejci and big Milan Lucic. In Dupont’s Sunday column, he also pointed for Rich Peverly and Chris Kelly as ham-and-eggers who have ratcheted up their games in the postseason.
Prediction—Look folks, if I knew who was going to win the series I would already be on my way to Las Vegas with the last of the family fortune in tow. I’m not that smart to figure all this out and anyone who tells you he can is fibbing.
Rooting interest—With apologies to the Canucks and their fans—Translation: Please don’t hurt me—I am rooting for the Bruins for a couple reasons. The first is Mark Recchi always was helpful over the years and I never have forgotten the guys who made life a little easier over the years.
The second is its about time Cam Neely got his name on the Cup after serious injuries—I’m looking at you Ulf Samuelsson!—robbed him of a longer career. Many of my hockey compatriots and I proudly uttered the manta “Orr, Bourque, Cam” over the years and I would love to see the Bruins’ president get his time with Stanley.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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