THE DEEP AND TALENTED CANUCKS ARE POISED TO FINALLY END THEIR 40-YEAR STANLEY CUP DROUGHT
The Canucks scored the most goals in the NHL and gave up the fewest in 2010--11. They're capable of winning either an up-tempo or a grinding series. The best way for the Bruins to improve their odds is to play tight defense and keep the score down—a strategy used with some success by the Predators in their six-game loss to Vancouver in the second round.
The extra rest between the Canucks' decisive Game 5 victory in the conference finals on May 24 and Wednesday's Cup opener should help Vancouver. Center Ryan Kesler and defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome were all nursing injuries. And the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, haven't shown their usual jump and may also be hobbled. The really bad news for Boston is that Manny Malhotra, the Canucks' gifted third-line center, has been cleared to play after missing the first three rounds of the playoffs with an eye injury. He will create matchup nightmares for Bruins coach Claude Julien.
Julien will most likely match the Sedins with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, his shutdown defensive pair. That means Kesler could put up big numbers. Vancouver's defense is also deeper than Boston's, with more players capable of joining the rush. The Bruins must stay out of the penalty box. Vancouver's nine power-play goals against San Jose in the last round were four more than Boston has scored in the entire playoffs. If the Canucks' special teams net an extra goal in each game, consider them the favorite to hoist the Cup.
Pick: Canucks in 6