Here We Go
By Joey Kenward
After playing a combined 100 regular season and playoff games this year, the Canucks open up the Stanley Cup Finals tonight at home against the Boston Bruins. It’s the first ever post-season meeting between the two clubs, both of which are 7-3 on home ice in this year’s playoffs.
“We’re excited,” said Daniel Sedin in anticipation of Game 1. “The fans are excited. The whole city’s behind us. We’re going to enjoy the moment and have some fun with it.”
The Canucks fell 3-1 to the Bruins in their lone head-to-head meeting this season in Vancouver on February 26. Manny Malhotra scored for the Canucks while Milan Lucic had a goal and two assists to lead the Bruins. The last win the Canucks posted at home against Boston was December 4, 2005 (5-2). Lifetime, Vancouver has a combined home ice record of 17-28-9 against the Bruins. Only twice in 108 career head-to-head meetings has Vancouver out-shot Boston, the second of which occurred in this year’s meeting when the Canucks out-shot the Bruins 28-25.
“They’re a great hockey team,” Alain Vigneault said of the Bruins. “They’ve got a lot of balance. I’m expecting a real hard and real good hockey series.”
Judging by yesterday’s practice and today’s morning skate, the Canucks are expecting to make a few changes to their line-up after their 3-2 win in double overtime more than a week ago in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks. Malhotra, who has been cleared for contact, is not expected to open up this series with Vancouver.
“If he’s in tonight, it would be special,” said fellow centre, Ryan Kesler. “But if not, you know, he’s working to play in these playoffs. Whenever he’s ready, we’re going to welcome him with open arms.”
The fourth line is expected to feature Alex Bolduc in between Jeff Tambellini and Victor Oreskovich. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome are both expected to return to the blue line for the Canucks after missing the last two games of the Sharks series with injuries.
Henrik Sedin enters this series leading the NHL playoffs in points (21), assists (19), and power play assists (9). He is three points shy of tying Pavel Bure for second overall in franchise playoff scoring (66 pts). Riding a six-game point streak (1g,12a), Henrik has never scored a goal against Boston.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” said Henrik, who has just four assists in 11 games against the Bruins. “I think the key for us is to get up to our potential.”
Daniel Sedin enters this series having collected four assists in his last two games. He is one power play goal shy of setting the franchise record for most in a playoff year, which he currently shares with Trevor Linden who had five in 1994. Daniel leads all Canucks in career scoring against the Bruins (10GP-4g,1a).
Roberto Luongo has appeared in 25 career meetings with the Bruins. His first career NHL victory came against Boston (2-1 Nov. 28/99). He has an overall record of 11-10-3 with a combined 2.39 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. His first career NHL shut-out came against the Bruins (3-0 Dec. 27/99). Luongo has four shut-outs against Boston, the most of any Eastern Conference team he’s played.
The Bruins are searching for their sixth Stanley Cup in what will be their 18th appearance in the Final. They have failed to win in their last five trips to the Finals. Like the Canucks, Boston has 16 players on their roster who have scored at least one goal in this year’s playoffs.
David Krejci and Nathan Horton enter the series sharing the Bruins lead in scoring. Krejci leads the NHL playoffs in goals (10) and game winning goals (4). Ryan Kesler is prepared to line up against these Bruins forwards if needed.
“That line’s very skilled,” Kesler commented pre-game. “Being matched up against really good offensive guys like that, it’s definitely a challenge. I definitely relish the role.”
In the last three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Horton had two goals and two assists, including the lone goal in Boston’s 1-0 win in Game 7.
B.C. born forwards Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi return to their home province for this year’s championship finale. Lucic, who led the Bruins in scoring this season with 30 goals and 32 assists, is from Vancouver and won a Memorial Cup with his hometown Giants team in 2007. Recchi, now 43, hails from Kamloops. The oldest player in this series, Recchi is appearing in his 15th NHL playoffs. In 182 post season games, Recchi has put up 58 goals and 82 assists en route to a pair of Stanley Cup victories.
Tim Thomas enters this series having posted two shut outs in his last five playoff games. He is 3-0-0 lifetime against Vancouver, with his first two victories coming in shut-out efforts.