After eight months of grueling and breath-taking action across North America, the hockey world has finally reached the ultimate destination: The Stanley Cup Final.
Starting Wednesday night in Vancouver with Game 1, the Canucks and the Boston Bruins will battle it out for hockey supremacy in the best-of-7 series. Boston has not won a title since 1972, while the Canucks have yet to win the Stanley Cup in their 40-year-old history.
So, who will emerge victorious? The opinions are as varied as the miles between these two cities.
Here is a sampling of what some of the NHL.com editorial team is thinking as we wait for puck drop; and below are their predictions on who will win the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
"All of a sudden some people are talking about this being an even matchup; it's not," says senior writer Dan Rosen, who has covered the Western Conference playoffs since the first round. "The Canucks were the best team in the regular season and the best team in the best conference in the playoffs. They have a deeper defense, a far superior power play and the Sedin twins. Tim Thomas will steal a game or two, but not the series."
Editor-in-Chief Bob Condor also sees Vancouver being too much for the Bruins to handle.
"Boston will struggle to contain the Canucks' scoring lines," Condor says. "There will be just too much ice time for the Bruins' top defensive pairs. Plus, expect Vancouver to be turbo-fueled by its home crowd."
"There isn't an area where the Canucks aren't the better team, whether it's goaltending, defense, forward depth or special teams," Lozo said. 'The Bruins haven't faced a team the caliber of the Canucks during the playoffs, and this series will bring a swift end to their impressive run in the postseason."
Even NHL.com staff writer Corey Masisak, based in the East throughout all four rounds of the playoffs, likes the look of these Canucks, especially after watching the Bruins power play struggle through seven games against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"Vancouver's advantage on special teams will be similar to Tampa Bay's against Boston in the last round, but the Canucks will be better equipped to deal with the Bruins at even strength than the Lightning were," Masisak argues.
But, not everybody at NHL.com is on the Canucks' bandsagon.
Senior managing editor Shawn Roarke has covered 15 of Boston's 18 playoff games this postseason and believes the Bruins are writing a pretty special story.
"This team has been doubted throughout the playoffs and has responded positively each time," Roarke says. "They were supposed to be done when they lost the first two game of the Montreal series and they weren't. Philadelphia was supposed to be in their head in the second round and was dispatched in four games. Last round, the Tampa Bay Lightning were supposed to have too much skill for the Bruins and when the Lightning won Game 6 it was all but over for Boston. Yet, Boston found a way to win Game 7. That is what this team does. It finds a way to win."
So, who will be right? We'll find out sometime during the next two weeks.