(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (3) Boston Bruins
Seeds: No. 1 (West) vs. No 3 (East); Canucks beat the Blackhawks in seven games in the first round, beat the Predators in six games in the second round and beat the Sharks in five games in the Western Conference Finals. Bruins beat the Canadiens in seven games in the first round, swept the Flyers in the second round and beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
One of these teams is going to end an epic streak of championship futility. In their 40th season, the Canucks are going for their first Stanley Cup, while the Bruins have gone 39 years since winning their last Stanley Cup in 1972.
Right here, right now: Boston won the only regular-season meeting when Vancouver native Milan Lucic broke a 1-1 tie with a goal with 4:38 left in regulation. He also had a pair of assists in the Bruins' 3-1 victory at Rogers Arena on Feb. 26. Tim Thomas stopped 27 of 28 Canucks shots, allowing only Manny Malhotra's first-period goal to get past him. Roberto Luongo made 22 saves for the Canucks.
Coulda Woulda: Both teams are looking to make history -- no team has won the Stanley Cup after going seven games in the first round since the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canucks needed seven games to beat the Blackhawks, while the Bruins needed a Game 7 to get past the Canadiens. The Bruins needed to win a pair of Game 7s to get to their first Final since 1990 – they beat the Lightning 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.
How important to win first game: The Canucks have won seven straight Game 1s and have gone on to win five of those series. The Bruins lost Game 1 against Montreal in the first round -- they actually were down 0-2 in that series -- but rallied to win. They won Game 1 against Philadelphia and lost it against Tampa Bay, but the resilience shown in all three rounds has proven to them that win or lose, they're never out of a series.
The Great Unknown: Can Malhotra play? The Canucks' third-line center played a huge role in the team's success this season, but it was assumed the eye injury he suffered in March could be season-ending (if not career-ending). But he's been cleared to practice, with contact. If he gets in the lineup, how big a contribution will he bring? And if Malhotra does play, how will the Bruins' top line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic fare Vancouver top checking center? The trio has 20 of Boston's 57 goals this postseason, and while their offense runs three lines deep, Boston depends on its top line to set the tone offensively.
Finish line: Vancouver enters its first Stanley Cup Final since 1994 a well-rested, confident bunch after a week off following its five-game elimination of the Sharks in the Western Conference Final. The Bruins, after surviving Game 7 against the Lightning on Friday, have to fly across the continent to play two games in a hostile, raucous Rogers Arena.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.