After six weeks of some of the best Stanley Cup Playoff hockey ever played, the Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin.
The team that emerges as the Stanley Cup Champion will end a drought for which long suffering fans will be eternally grateful. Boston has not won the Stanley Cup since 1972 while Vancouver has not won a Cup in its 40 year history.
Vancouver, the 2010-2011 Presidents Trophy winner as the team with the most points during the regular season, is the favorite. They enter the series as a team full of talented, fast, skilled and confident players. And why not? Superstar forward Henrik Sedin leads all playoff scorers with 21 points. He also leads the league with 19 assists. Fellow forward Ryan Kesler is fourth in scoring with 18 points. Goaltender and 2010 Vezina Trophy winner Roberto Luongo is tied for first with 18 wins. He is also tied for first place with a goals against average of 2.29. He is sixth in save percentage at .929. Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa are second and third in defensemen scoring with 11 and nine points, respectively.
The Canucks also have Mikael Samuelsson who has a Stanley Cup ring from his days as a Detroit Red Wing. Unfortunately, he will miss the Finals due to recent surgery
Boston comes to the Finals as the 2011 Eastern Conference playoff champions. The team has been on a mission since last year's playoff collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Management brought in nine new players who played key roles in the club's third place finish in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. First-year Bruins such as Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Tomas Kaberle and Tyler Seguin, to name a few, have been instrumental in playing key roles during the Bruins' march to the Finals.
Boston is led in playoff scoring by Horton and David Krejci with 17 points each. Krejci currently resides in fifth place in scoring while Horton is sixth. Krejci enters the Finals as the NHL's leading goal scorer with 10. Captain Zdeno Chara leads all playoff performers in the plus/minus statistic with a plus-11. Horton is second with a plus-10. Goaltender Tim Thomas is a 2011 finalist for the Vezina Trophy and leads all playoff netminders with 12 wins and 2 shutouts. He enters the Finals tied with Luongo with a .929 save percentage. Thomas also shares a 2.29 goals against average with Luongo. Dennis Seidenberg and Tomas Kaberle lead the club's defensemen in scoring with eight points each.
Two Bruins possess Stanley Cup rings. Shawn Thornton earned one in 2007 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi wears two rings. He won the first in 1991 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ring number two was earned as a member with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
Defenseman Andrew Ference has one trip to the Finals on his resume. He played for the 2004 Calgary Flames that lost in the Finals to Tampa Bay while center Chris Kelly's Ottawa Senators came out on the losing side in 2007 against Thornton's Ducks.
Those are the facts moving forward to the Stanley Cup Finals. Now for those five predictions.