Tag: series previews

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks

Your primer for Game 1 of 2011 Stanley Cup finals between Bruins, Canucks

The wait for any Stanley Cup finals contest can be unbearable, but fans of the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks must be on the edges of their seats even more than most would be right now.

In the bigger picture, the Canucks have been waiting for 17 years while the Bruins haven’t gotten this far in 21 years. Yet even the recent versions of the two teams have been waiting for quite some time. Boston received a hearty break for a team that just finished a seven-game series on Friday while Vancouver’s most recent game began on Tuesday, May 24. No doubt about it, these teams are anxious to drop the puck.

Boston @ Vancouver (NBC) – 8 p.m. ET; Game 1

The Canucks go into this game as heavy favorites, earning the PHT staff’s unanimous selection and the votes of many others. This team is well-rested, rugged and deep in just about every area. On the other hand, they also must deal with the pressure of delivering the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and Vancouver’s first Cup since 1915.

Meanwhile, the Bruins could be a very dangerous team in the underdog role. Few should be surprised if Boston’s all-world goalie Tim Thomas steals some victories – maybe even four – in this series. There’s also reason to believe that Zdeno Chara could give the Sedin twins some serious headaches, as well. The B’s have their flaws in some areas, but their overall talent level should not be underestimated.

If you’re still waiting on pins and needles, check out the plethora of PHT posts leading in to Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

Tim Thomas travels long, bumpy road to 2011 Stanley Cup finals

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Seven

There are a lot of deserving players on both sides of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Really, anyone willing to fight through 82 regular season games and 18 playoff games earned the right to be there on Wednesday in Game 1. Still, there are certain Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks whose stories are a bit less ordinary and a lot more inspiring.

For the Canucks, defenseman Sami Salo’s injury-filled career makes him an easy player to root for. The Bruins feature a solid cast of interesting characters, including 43-year-old potential Hall of Famer Mark Recchi, but the best story might be of their best player: goalie Tim Thomas.

Despite breaking club records at the University of Vermont with Martin St. Louis, Thomas took a long time to convince people that he could make his unorthodox style work at the NHL level. Take a look at all of the stops he made on his way to becoming a full-fledged starter (and eventually, an all-world goalie) with the Bruins.

(Games played for each team listed in parenthesis.)


HIFK (Helsingin IFK)  (6 games) – Finnish league
Houston Aeros (1 game)

Hamilton Bulldogs (15)
HIFK (14)

Detroit Vipers (36)

AIK (Allmänna Idrottsklubben Ishockeyförening) (43) – Swedish league

Kärpät (32) – Finnish league

Providence Bruins (35)
Boston Bruins (4)

Providence Bruins (43)

Jokerit (54) – Finnish league

Providence Bruins (26)
Boston Bruins (38)

06-07 – current
Boston Bruins (277)

It’s amazing to think about how far Thomas has come (literally and figuratively) to get to this point. He didn’t really become the Bruins’ top goalie until he reached his 30’s and he lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask in 2009-10*, yet he keeps silencing his critics one breathtaking and terrifying save at a time. He used his unusual style to win the 08-09 Vezina Trophy and seems like an odds-on favorite to win it again this year. He continued much of that momentum in the playoffs, standing as the No. 1 reason the Bruins got this far.

Still, he faces one more big obstacle on his way to the ultimate validation that is a Stanley Cup victory: the deep, talented and rugged Vancouver Canucks. This is the toughest overall team Thomas’ Bruins could face, and if you ask many hockey people, they’ll tell you that the Canucks are a considerably stronger overall team. Yet as we’ve seen time and time again in playoff history, a red-hot goalie can change everything.

In other words: Tim Thomas will likely be asked to defy the odds starting in Game 1 on Wednesday. Something tells us he’ll be familiar with that proposition.

* Here is a video covering how Thomas bounced back from that “off year” in 09-10.

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Comparing the 2010-11 Boston Bruins to the 1989-90 version


Much like the Vancouver Canucks (last seen this late in the game in 1994), the Boston Bruins have been waiting a long time for another crack at the Stanley Cup finals. They last made it to the game’s grandest stage in 1990, when the post-Gretzky Edmonton Oilers dispatched them in five games.

Let’s take a look at how this year’s Bruins compare to the Ray Bourque-fueled team from 21 years ago, shall we?

The 1989-90 Boston Bruins at a glance

Record: 46-25-9 (first in Adams division); Goals For: 289 (11th of 21 teams); Goals Against: 232 (1st of 21); PP %: 23.58 (league average: 20.77); PK %: 83.23 (league average: 79.23)

The 2010-11 Boston Bruins at a glance

Record: 46-25-11 (first in Northeast division); Goals For: 246 (8th of 30 teams); Goals Against: 195 (3rd of 30); PP %: 16.17 (league average: 18.02); PK %: 82.64 (league average: 81.98)

From a big picture standpoint, these teams have some interesting similarities – they even earned 46 wins and went 25 games without a point in defeat. (You may recall that the 89-90 Bruins played in the pre-charity point era.) The earlier Bruins squad was even stronger than the current one, winning the 89-90 Presidents Trophy and losing just four games in the three rounds before that Stanley Cup finals series. Obviously, certain statistics are skewed by different eras, but both teams produced similar goal differentials. (89-90 earned a +57 mark, 10-11 earned a +51 one.) In other words, these teams weren’t Cinderella stories.

’89-90 top scorers (offense)

Cam Neely – 92 points (28 in playoffs)
Craig Janney – 62 points (22 in playoffs)
Bob Carpenter – 56 points (10 in playoffs)

’10-11 top scorers (offense)

David Krejci – 62 points (17 in playoffs)
Milan Lucic – 62 points (9 in playoffs)
Patrice Bergeron – 57 points (15 in playoffs)
Nathan Horton – 53 points (17 in playoffs)

As you can see, the 89-90 Bruins forward corps leaned heavily on the play of star power forward Cam Neely. There’s a serious drop-off from Neely to Janney (then again, he wasn’t the team’s real No. 2 scorer, who will get to in a second) while the current Bruins score by committee. Comparing the teams relative to their peers shows that the current Bruins might have had a stronger offense, in some ways. Lucic has a long way to go before he reaches Neely’s level, though.

’89-90 scorers among defensemen

Raymond Bourque – 84 points (17 in playoffs)
Greg Hawgwood – 38 points (4 in playoffs)
Glen Wesley – 36 points (8 in playoffs)
Garry Galley – 35 points (6 in playoffs)

’10-11 scorers among defensemen

Zdeno Chara – 44 points (5 in playoffs)
Dennis Seidenberg – 32 points (8 in playoffs)
Note: Tomas Kaberle had eight points while Andrew Ference had seven in the playoffs.

Both Bruins teams featured one blueliner who stood out among the rest (most literally in the case of Chara because he’s really tall and such). Bourque received the Norris Trophy for that season while Chara is one of the three finalists for the 2010-11 season. Each squad was strong at holding teams off the scoreboard, with the 89-90 Bruins allowing the least amount of goals and the current model coming in third place in their regular seasons. Team defense seems to be the biggest similarity between the two teams.

’89-90 top goalie

Andy Moog

Regular season: 24-10-7, 2.89 GAA and 89.3 save pct.; Playoffs: 13-7, 2.21 GAA and 90.9 save pct.

’10-11 top goalie

Tim Thomas

Regular season: 35-11-9, 2 GAA and 93.8 save pct; Playoffs: 12-6, 2.29 GAA and 92.9 save pct.

During the regular season, Moog (46 games played) was in a rotation with Reggie Lemelin (43 games played). He clearly took over during the playoffs, though, putting up what was then a sterling 90.9 save percentage. In some quarters, Thomas went into the season as an expected backup to Tuukka Rask but he quickly regained his Vezina Trophy form.

Moog was a good-to-strong goalie in his NHL career, but he never won a Vezina. Thomas is the odds-on favorite to take that trophy, which would mark the second time he would earn that award. If the current Bruins are significantly stronger than the older version in one area, it’s definitely in net.


Unlike the wildly different current Canucks vs. ’94 edition, the modern Bruins share a lot of similarities to the ’89-90 team. They both won their divisions, produced strong goal differentials and employed Norris Trophy defensemen. The ’90 version’s offense relied upon Neely and Bourque while the current team spreads its scoring over a couple lines, though.

My guess is that the Bruins might face a similar fate as their predecessors, possibly even down to the 4-1 series score. That’s just my opinion, though. Feel free to share your opinion on how the 2011 Stanley Cup finals will shake out by voting in this poll.

Boston Bruins have the edge in all-time matchup with the Vancouver Canucks

Darcy Hordichuk, Shawn Thornton

The Vancouver Canucks haven’t won a single Stanley Cup since they entered the NHL in the 1970, right around the time the Boston Bruins were a dominant force thanks to Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito & Co. The Canucks began their franchise in the Eastern Division with the Bruins, which planted the seeds for Boston’s early (and overall) dominance between the two teams.

NHL.com’s John Kreiser put together an interesting take on the Bruins and Canucks’ all-time records against each other, although it’s important to note that the teams obviously don’t play against each other often these days.

  • In 108 contests, Boston is 68-24-15-1 against the Canucks while Vancouver is 25-66-15-2 against the Bruins. Kreiser notes that 25 wins is the lowest amount of victories the Canucks franchise has against any team they’ve played at least 100 games against.
  • Again, their rivalry was especially one-sided in the beginning, when the Canucks were scrambling to build their teams while the Bruins were in the middle of their “Big, Bad” era. Boston went a ridiculous 20-2-1 in their first 23 contests.
  • Perhaps the Canucks aren’t big chowder fans? The Canucks managed a desolate 8-38-7-1 mark in road games in Boston, although they’ve only played in Massachusetts twice since 2003 (winning a shootout in their most recent appearance on February 6, 2010).
  • The Bruins are considerably more comfortable visiting scenic Vancouver. Boston is 29-17-8 when visiting the Canucks, including wins in four of their last five road games in Vancouver. Kreiser also points out that they’ve never been shut out by the Canucks in Vancouver. The Bruins have five out of the six shutouts in the all-time rivalry overall.

Of course, if you’ve followed hockey for a while, you know that even results from the most recent regular season only matter so much once the playoffs begin. In other words, these numbers are for your entertainment more than anything else.. Both teams have overcome some first round hurdles on their way to the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins beat their long-time tormentors (the Montreal Canadiens) while the Canucks finally overcame their recent headaches (the Chicago Blackhawks). Turning the page on past frustrations is a big part of getting this far, let alone hoisting the Cup.

Kreiser also points out some bigger picture factors that probably are a stronger indicator of Vancouver’s chances than their historical record against the Bruins.

Those aren’t good numbers for the Canucks – but here’s a couple that are in their favor. They are the first team since the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens to lead the League in both goals scored and goals against, and those Canadiens won the Cup. The Canucks also won the Presidents’ Trophy – and the last four Presidents’ Trophy winners to make the Final have gone on to win the Cup.

Video: Hockey Central gives an early look at the 2011 Stanley Cup finals

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks

(Want PHT’s own early take on the 2011 Stanley Cup finals matchup between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks? If so, click here to read our first look at how we think the two teams will stack up against each other.)

Despite the fact that Canucks haven’t been to the Cup finals since 1994 while the Bruins’ last visit came in ’90, it’s not outrageously shocking that the two teams made it this far. Both teams began the 2010-11 season with solid expectations, particularly in the case of Vancouver. They delivered as many expected, too, with Boston taking the Northwest Division and third seed in the East while the Canucks won the Presidents Trophy (and thus, the Northwest).

If you asked someone who would win this series in April, it’s likely that more people would have chosen the Canucks, but it would have been a close call. The perceptive gap between the two teams probably grew in the playoffs (you can let us know if that’s true by voting in the Stanley Cup poll though), making Vancouver an even stronger favorite. Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick provide their own thoughts on the upcoming series for Hockey Central below.

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