For every hockey fan, the Stanley Cup finals are always something special.  Even if your team doesn’t make it this far, as mine typically falls in this category, it’s still great hockey to watch and this year will be no different.

We’re going to break down this series by position and shed some light on these two teams.  Now, there’s statistics everywhere about the cup finals and most get thrown out the window here.  This is a great matchup as both teams come into this series very evenly matched.  The teams met once this year, back in February in Vancouver, with Boston taking the 3-1 win.  The last 10 times these teams have met, Boston has won 7 times.  With that said, let’s check out the matchup:

Goalies:

I start with Goaltending as series are won and lost on the position.  You can have all the high flying scoring but if your goalie can’t stop the puck … you won’t win a series.

Tim Thomas is easily the comeback player of the year.  Most folks, including myself, figured he was done and the starter job in Beantown would go to Tuukka Rask.  Thomas was back to his great play during the season racking up 35 wins, a 2.00 GAA and a 93.8 save percentage.  To me, anything over 93% is a sign of a very good goalie.  True, he’s had his moments during the Eastern Conference Finals but he has responded to the bell when the team needed a big win.  Boston won’t change a thing here as Thomas has played every game in the playoffs thus far.

For Vancouver, Roberto Luongo also has had his ups and downs this playoff run.  In fact Luongo’s backup, Cory Schneider, started game 6 against Chicago replacing the shaky Luongo.  Since that game, Luongo has looked better and had a fantastic series against San Jose.  In the playoffs, he has a 2.29 GAA with 92% save percentage which are very solid.

Bottom line … These goalies are evenly matched.  As most series do, it’s going to come down to one of these guys playing at their best and right now I feel Thomas has edge.

 

Defensemen:

Notice a trend here?  We’re leaving the forwards for last.  Not that I’m not about goal scoring … it’s just that winning a series is more about your blue liners and goalies that it is about forwards.

I thought Boston made a great move in acquiring Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline and finally made the smart move of not pairing him with Chara.  The Boston defense is a very strong and physical set.   These guys love to pound bodies into the boards and block tons of shots.  Chara’s shot is a game change and though Kaberle has struggled at times, he’s still the quarterback of the power play.

Vancouver has an extremely deep roster at this spot.  With 2 of their top 6 players missing games in the San Jose series, the squad was able to adapt and stymie the Sharks offense.  Kevin Bieksa is the leader of this group netting 5 goals, the top goal scoring defensemen in the playoffs, while sporting a +10.  I really like the play of Christian Ehroff but we’ll see how he responds to his shoulder injury.

Bottom line … Again, a very evenly matched group.  I do, however, feel Boston had the more difficult series leading to the cup.  To come out and win two 7 game series is impressive.  I’m giving the edge to Boston.

 

Forwards:

Ahhh … finally the goal scorers and the playmakers.

Really, this is pretty simple.  When Vancouver’s Sedin brothers are on the ice you should be watching the screen.  The playmaking ability of these guys together is simply amazing.  Throw Kesler or Burrows out there with them and holy pucks in the back of the net Batman!  With a very tough third line featuring Raffi Torres, a guy that loves physical play, this team has 3 very solid lines.

Boston, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the fire power to match.  This is a physical team that scores in bunches but key members have struggled.  They have players like David Krejci and Milan Lucic that have a knack for finding the net with Krejci leading the charge.  Otherwise, this team has a defense first philosophy.

Bottom line … No doubt, Vancouver has the clear edge here.

 

Prediction time.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … goaltending and defense win cups.  Vancouver did win the President’s Cup as the top team in the league but had a VERY easy road to this final.  Boston, on the other hand, was forced into 2 seven game series this playoffs and simply faced higher quality teams.  This will come down to special teams and defense.  Boston has been sloppy, as of late, on their power play and penalty kills.  Against the Vancouver forwards their defense must play better.  I think they will.  Boston in 6.