After what seemed like a decade of waiting, the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals are finally upon us. The Vancouver Canucks will host the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in Game 1 of the Final in front of what should be an incredible crowd.
Vancouver hasn't hosted a game in the Final since Game 6 of the 1994 series, a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers that kept their dreams alive that year. Of course, they failed to seal the deal in Game 7, and now in their 40th season, they've yet to win a Stanley Cup.
Beginning Wednesday, they have their best shot at doing just that. The Canucks were far-and-away the best team in the NHL all season long, and after a scare against the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 that was likely more mental than anything else, they've rolled through the Western Conference with relative ease.
The Bruins are in the same boat. After a Game 7 scare from a hated rival in Round 1, Boston punched the Philadelphia Flyers right in the jaw before going toe-to-toe with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Final. We easily could be talking about the Bolts right now in the Cup Final after an incredible series, but alas, Nathan Horton and the B's prevailed in that final game.
Each team has a strong, Vezina-candidate goaltender in Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo, a stark contrast with the goalie duo of the 2010 Final: journeyman and career minor leaguer Michael Leighton and then-rookie Antti Niemi. It's tough to say either team has an edge in goal, but it's easy to say that Thomas is more valuable to the Bruins than Luongo is to the Canucks.
Boston is a defense-first team, built from the net out. They don't have the firepower of the Canucks, but with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg putting in 30 minutes a night and Thomas between the pipes, they don't necessarily need it.
We'll find out exactly which philosophy works best, beginning Wednesday night.
The Stanley Cup Finals kick off Wednesday in Vancouver, as the Canucks host the Boston Bruins. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub, our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct, and our Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder.