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Once again, the Stanley Cup Finals will be held in Vancouver.
The experience gained from last season's playoffs definitely helped the Vancouver offense last year. They were inept at scoring and couldn't get anything past Tim Thomas, but the same will not be for Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Canucks will have beaten the best defense in the league to get to the Finals and they will have learned how to capitalize on chances. The Canucks, with the fifth best offense, will put some pucks in the net.
Roberto Luongo, as much as fans would not like to see him in the net for the Finals, will be starting every game. He learned how to deal with the pressure of the Finals, and save for Game 7, he was spectacular at home.
Luongo heads the fourth best defense in the NHL and he will play like he needs it to move to number one. Schneider won't have to come in, but if they decided to give Luongo a rest somewhere, Schneider will certainly be able to hold his own.
Pittsburgh will come into this series a little black and blue after playing in a seven-game series, and two six-game series. Crosby's production may falter as he has not played so many consecutive games since the beginning of last season, and if he has to sit a game, it could prove to be the difference. Even with the best offense in the NHL, his absence would slow the overall production.
The Penguins will have to get production from everyone to keep up with the Vancouver defense.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been in this position before, and he knows what it takes to both win and lose the Cup. His Penguins hold the 17th-ranked defense in the NHL, something that will not bode well for the Penguins in the finals. The Penguins will have to step it up, especially with playing so many games and with the amount of travel that they are not used to.
In the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the special teams also played a vital role in the outcome of the series. Vancouver has the fourth-ranked power play, with Pittsburgh right behind them at No. 5. On the penalty kill, Pittsburgh is third, while Vancouver is sixth. These two teams will be even when playing each other on special teams.
The key to this entire series is health. Whichever team can recover more between games and can stay healthy will win the cup. Both teams have great offenses, special teams, but Vancouver has the edge in defense. Defense wins championships, and Vancouver will hoist the Cup in June after a thrilling six-game series.