The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks will be an exciting matchup. Both teams have been to the Finals before but never had met.
Their teams are led by highly talented players. Boston's Zdeno Chara is one of the best defensive players not named Nicklas Lidstrom in the whole league. His slap shot can put holes in steel.
Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and brother Daniel are one of the best one-two punches in the NHL not named Datsyuk-Zetterberg.
Boston's Tim Thomas and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo have been two of the best goalies this season. Both team's coaches— Claude Julien of Boston and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault—are two of the best coaches in the NHL.
These teams have brought to the NHL a worthy Finals that should draw some viewers away from the NBA version. Lebron who?
Also these teams have some interesting facts that set them both together and apart in this season's version of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Who will win is anyone's guess. A seven game series is not out of the question.
Don Cherry bleeds his blood Canadian red. He has been hoping for a Canadian Stanley Cup champion for a long time.
He actually played for Vancouver in 1968-1969 which is the second to last season before Vancouver joined the NHL.
However he was the head coach of Boston from 1974-79. During two of those seasons, Cherry was able to coach Bobby Orr. Orr is like a son to Cherry.
During the "Coach's Corner" for Game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals between Boston and Tampa Bay; Cherry was wearing Bruins cuff links, a Bruins logo pin below his front pocket with a black handkerchief of a gold colored suit and wearing a Winnie the Pooh (Bear = Bruins) necktie.
Coach's Corner comes on during the first Intermission of televised games and he had already decided who was winning the game. True, Boston did win 1-0, but still Cherry should show some restraint.
Even though both teams are captained by European born players and Vancouver is the lone Canadian team, Cherry will still pull for the Bruins.
Former NHL head coach Mike Keenan does have connections to Boston and Vancouver.
He was the coach of the New York Rangers when they defeated Vancouver in seven games in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. He only lasted there for that one season.
He did coach in Vancouver for two seasons from 1997 to 1999 however. He coached Mark Messier during that tenure in charge of the Canucks. Messier was the Rangers' captain when they defeated Vancouver on the previous occasion.
Keenan then became the Boston head coach for one season in 2000. He has a pattern of not lasting long with either of the teams in these Finals.
However his other connection to Vancouver was when he was the GM of the Florida Panthers in 2006. He traded Roberto Luongo to Vancouver to obtain Todd Bertuzzi along with Alex Auld and Bryan Allen. He soon resigned.
Therefore he is quite instrumental in bringing the team he defeated for the Stanley Cup back to the Finals.
The Vancouver Canucks are the most western team in the NHL.
The Boston Bruins are the most eastern team in the NHL.
Therefore this will be the most traveled Stanley Cup Finals in NHL history. This matchup is also the third Coast to Coast Stanley Cup final in NHL history. Each time this has occurred the Canucks were involved.
They were swept by the New York Islanders in 1982 and took the New York Rangers to seven games but lost in 1994.
The most western team Boston ever faced in the Stanley Cup Finals was the Edmonton Oilers. They faced them twice. In 1988 they were swept and in 1990 they lost in five games.
If Vancouver does win the Stanley Cup, the Sedin twins will become the 11th set of brothers to win a Cup on the same team.
The last time this occurred was when Rob and Scott Neidermeyer won the 2007 Stanley Cup for the Ducks. Rob Neidermeyer was the captain of the Ducks just as Henrik is the captain of the Canucks.
Scott was an assistant captain for the Ducks as Daniel is an assistant captain for the Canucks.
Boston on the other hand does not have siblings among their players playing in the NHL.
Vancouver did win the Presdient's Trophy for the best record overall for the regular season. The last team to at least reach the Stanley Cup Finals and win the President's Trophy was the 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings who won their 11th Stanley Cup that season.
The Vancouver Canucks, by reaching this season's Stanley Cup Finals, joined the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, 2001 Colorado Avalanche, 1999-00 Dallas Stars, 1994 Canucks, 1993 Los Angeles Kings and the 1991 Minnesota North Stars to have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals without facing the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs during Detroit's 20 year streak of consecutive playoff appearances.
Vancouver is also the only Canadian team to make it to the Finals in the same conference as Detroit without facing Detroit during this 20 year span.
Chicago in 2010, Colorado in 2001 and Dallas in 1999 are the only three of this rare group of teams who also won the Stanley Cup in the same season.
Boston has faced Detroit only twice in the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston won out in 1941 and Detroit won it in 1943. Both series were sweeps.
Boston's Zdeno Chara is a finalist for the 2011 Norris Trophy but so is Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom.
Vancouver's Ryan Kesler is a finalist for the 2011 Selke Trophy but so is Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk.
This year there will be no players on the ice who have played for the Red Wings. Mikael Samuelsson was injured in the Western Conference Finals and will be out for the rest of the playoffs. However if Vancouver wins, Samuelsson will get his name on the Cup as he played in enough regular season games to qualify.
Boston is the first Original Six team to face a team from Canada in the Stanley Cup Finals since they faced Edmonton in 1990. They lost that series in five games to give Edmonton its fifth Stanley Cup in seven seasons.
The last time two Original Six teams faced each other in the Stanley Cup Finals was 1979. Montreal coached by Scotty Bowman defeated the New York Rangers in five games.
The last time two Canadian teams faced off against each other was 1989, when the Calgary Flames defeated Montreal in six games.
The last time that the Original Six Canadian teams of Montreal and Toronto faced each other was 1967. Toronto defeated Montreal in six games. It was the last Stanley Cup won by Toronto and the last time they were in the Stanley Cup Finals. Toronto therefore has the longest Stanley Cup drought of the Original Six.
The Vancouver Canucks goalies Roberto Luongo and Chris Schneider won the Jennings Trophy for having the lowest Goals Against Average (GAA) for the 2010-11 regular season of 2.20. The last team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Jennings Trophy in tow was the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings. They won it with the combination of Dominic Hasek and Chris Osgood.
Even though Schneider was brought in midway through the first round when Luongo went through a meltdown. Chicago came back and so did Luongo to keep Vancouver alive. In the next two rounds, Luongo was able to keep his job and take the Canucks back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Luongo also joins Boston's Tim Thomas as finalists for the Vezina trophy given to the top goaltender for the 2010-2011 season. Thomas however is the only one of the two to have won the Vezina before (2009).
The last time that there was a Vezina and Jennings combo for goalies in the Stanley Cup Finals was 1999. The Jennings winners were Ed Belfour and Roman Turek of the Dallas Stars whereas the eventual Vezina trophy winner was Dominic Hasek of the Buffalo Sabers.
Dallas would win the Cup that year in Game 6 in the 3rd overtime on the infamous crease goal by Brett Hull.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Finals feature two coaches who are prior winners of the Adams trophy for Coach of the Year.
Boston's Claude Julien won the Adams in 2009.
Vancouver's Alain Vigneault won the Adams trophy in 2007. Vigneault is also a finalist for the trophy this season.
The last time two Adams trophy winners faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals was in 1995 when Jacques Lemaire (1994) led the New Jersey Devils to a sweep of Scotty Bowman (1977) and the Detroit Red Wings. Lemaire would win the Adams again in 2002 and Bowman would win it again in 1996.
The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins are both captained by players who were born in Europe. Vancouver has Henrik Sedin of Sweden and Boston has Zdeno Chara of Slovakia. This means it is guarenteed that, for the second time ever, that a European born player will raise the Stanley Cup first.
The more interesting of the two is of course Chara as he is also the tallest player in the NHL at 6'9". Gary Bettman would have to get on a step-stool just to hand him the Cup if Boston wins it all.
Nicklas Lidstrom is the first ever European born captain to pull off the feat when he led Detroit to their 11th Stanley Cup in 2008.
Lidstrom is also the first European born player to capture the Conn Smythe when Detroit won the 2002 Stanley Cup. However there have been two other European-born hockey players to win the trophy since. Henrik Zetterberg with Detroit won in 2008 and Evgeni Malkin when Pittsburgh somehow won it in 2009.
Therefore Chara or one of the Sedin twins could easily be the next European born player to hoist that trophy as well.
The Vancouver Canucks are the first Canadian team to make it to the Stanley Cup Final since 2007 when the Ottawa Senators lost to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens who defeated the Los Angeles Kings and Wayne Gretzky in five games.
The next year after that the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Finals and it took seven games for the New York Rangers to defeat them. Vancouver has never won the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver will also try to become first ever to be the host city in the Winter Olympics to host their home country's victory in the Gold Medal game and also win the Stanley Cup.
Calgary did win the Stanley Cup in 1989 but Canada did not win the gold medal in the ice hockey tournament in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Boston has won the Stanley Cup five times. The most recent was in 1972 against the New York Rangers in six games. It has been a gap of 39 years.
When the New York Rangers defeated Vancouver in 1994 to win the Cup, they had gone 44 years since they won it all.
Therefore is history on Vancouver's side to end 18 years of American dominance or is it on Boston's side to end their 39 year drought?