The Vancouver Canucks
and Boston Bruins
have outlasted the other 14 teams that began the quest for the Stanley Cup in mid-April. Three rounds and six-plus weeks later, they've battled their way to within sight of hockey's most coveted prize, and in the next couple of weeks, one of them will earn the right to sip from Lord Stanley's mug.
The Bruins won the teams' only regular-season meeting, 3-1 at Vancouver on Feb. 26. Boston has dominated the all-time series -- the Canucks have won just 25 of the 108 meetings since Vancouver joined the NHL in 1970. Both teams survived a seven-game scare in the opening round and enter the Final having won 12 of their 18 playoff games.
The Canucks have the home-ice edge -- and the advantage of being well-rested. They finished off the San Jose Sharks
in five games in the Western Conference Finals, while the Bruins had to battle through seven life-and-death games before outlasting the Tampa Bay Lightning
Vancouver has been without center Manny Malhotra
since he took a puck in the eye in March, and forward Mikael Samuelsson
is out after sports hernia surgery. Malhotra was supposed to be out for the season, but he's been OK'd for light contact in practice, and there are rumblings he might be able to play at some point. Boston is as healthy as a team can get after 100 games and should have all hands on deck.
The team that wins will end one of the longest championship droughts in NHL history. Boston is 0-for-5 in the Final since its last victory in 1972. The Canucks have never won a Cup since entering the League in 1970; they were beaten by the New York Islanders
(1982) and Rangers (1994).