Across Enemy Lines: Canucks are tested
Getting to the Stanley Cup Final is an amazing accomplishment, but you can bet neither the Bruins nor the Canucks will be happy if their success ends there.
Both teams are hungry to lift Lord Stanley, and they'll be laying it all on the line when the series begins Wednesday night in Vancouver.
The Canucks are the heavy favorites to take home hockey's greatest prize, having been the best team all regular season in nearly every major statistical category. But the Bruins have shown tremendous heart and grit throughout the postseason. Vancouver might be the favorite, but Bruins fans are optimistic and confident.
Ian Walker, the Canucks beat writer for The Vancouver Sun, was kind enough to provide a Vancouver perspective of the upcoming series.
NESN.com: The Bruins and Canucks are both in the midst of lengthy championship droughts. The Bruins haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1972, and the Canucks have yet to win a championship since joining the NHL in 1970. Which team do you think needs this championship more?
Ian Walker: Boston has the Red Sox, the Celtics and the Patriots. Vancouver has the Canucks. This is a city where hockey is king, yet it's been almost a century since it last won Lord Stanley's Grail. It's a little known fact, but before the NHL was the NHL, the Vancouver Millionaires won the city's first Stanley Cup, defeating the Ottawa Senators in a best-of-five series in 1915.
The Canucks joined the league in 1970 and reached the Finals twice — in 1982 and 1994 — but their championship dreams remained unfulfilled after they lost both times. I don't know who needs it more, but believe me when I tell you there's a lot longer history of Stanley Cup disappointment out here in Vancouver.
NESN.com: The two starting goaltenders, Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, have both been major factors in their team's overall success. They both enter the Stanley Cup Finals with identical playoff goals-against averages. Which team do you think holds the goaltending advantage in this series?
One of Luongo's greatest attributes is his ability to overcome his flaws. It was only a couple of weeks ago that he was letting in goals from almost impossible angles. The Sharks, thinking they'd found a weakness, opened the series by firing shots from everywhere. Luongo simply responded by dropping into a butterfly stance, and by doing so, (he) took away the bottom of the net, greatly reducing the likelihood of a bad bounce into his net.
The 32-year-old Montreal native also has the experience of winning gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics with the weight of a nation on his back.
NESN.com: The Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler are the most well-known offensive threats for the Canucks. Which other Canucks player do you think could step up and play the role of hero against the Bruins?
IW: Chris Higgins has been a great addition since his arrival at the NHL's trade deadline, and is complementing the Canucks' second line of Kesler and Mason Raymond with his speed and offensive flair. Alex Burrows has also come up with a number of big, timely goals, and just the fact he is on the ice with the twins makes him a threat every shift.
And you can't forget Raffi Torres, who is coming off his best series of the playoffs against the Sharks and likes to score in bunches.
NESN.com: The Canucks were the best team in the NHL during the regular season on both the power play and the penalty kill. What is it that makes their special teams play so effectively?
IW: One man that deserves a lot of the credit is Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown, who came over from the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason. Brown won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007 and was the brains behind Vancouver loading up its top power-play unit with its best players — unlike in previous seasons, where Ryan Kesler was employed on the second unit.
Associate coach Rick Bowness is responsible for the penalty kill and opted to make a change from previous years by going with three units this season. By doing this, the Canucks are able to keep their shifts shorter and players more fresh.
NESN.com: The Canucks have been the best team in the NHL all year, but the Bruins have shown a lot of resiliency throughout the postseason. Who wins the Stanley Cup, in how many games and why?
IW: Canucks in five.
Everything the Vancouver Canucks have encountered through the first three rounds of the playoffs has been placed on their path to prepare them for this moment.
First, a seven game series against Chicago, where a late Jonathan Toews goal tied it for the Blackhawks before Alex Burrows won it in overtime.
Next, an ugly, grind-it-out, six-game affair with Nashville, including some anxious moments off bad bounces in the Vancouver end and stellar goaltending at the other.
And most recently, a five-game victory over a much bigger San Jose team that was equally talented up front, and could skate with the Canucks. Nothing Boston can do will surprise Vancouver. The Canucks have seen it all before.
Thanks again to Ian Walker for answering our questions. You can read more from Ian by clicking here. Please check back before every game of the Bruins-Canucks series for more Across Enemy Lines. You also can read NESN.com Bruins reporter Douglas Flynn's contributions to this feature on VancouverSun.com.