HNIC Star Selector - Stanley Cup Finals - Game 1 - Bruins vs Canucks

It is hard to believe that the Stanley Cup playoffs started on April 13th.  49 days, 14 teams and one Pizza franchise name change later (well this is somewhat more symbolic with Boston Pizza switching their name during the finals to Vancouver Pizza). AND now, we have the potential for one outstanding series.  Here are ten thoughts on the finals.

1. Mark Donnelly dominates Rene Rancourt in the battle of Anthem singers, even though Donnelly only sings half of the anthem.  Rancourt's fist pump is a little over the top for my liking.

2. 78% of game 1 winners go on to win the Stanley Cup.  This number improves to 86% if you are the home team.

3. Ryan Kesler will benefit from the extra time off between series, even though the eight game lay off is probably a little longer than Canuck management would have preferred.

4. Boston presents Vancouver with some unique matchup challenges.  High end goaltending along with a solid backend, lead by all-world Zdeno Chara, will make life difficult on the Sedin's.

5. There is nothing to suggest Boston's power play is any closer to improving.  If Boston has any hopes of winning, their penalty killing must limit Vancouver's power play advantage.  The team's have virtually the same penalty killing percentage (Vancouver 80.6%, Boston 79.4%) with the Canucks holding a 20.1% lead converting power play opportunities.

6.  Look for Vancouver native Milan Lucic to have a dominant Stanley Cup Finals.  Lucic has a history of playing well in front of his hometown crowd, including a Memorial Cup MVP winning performance when he led to Vancouver Giants to the title back in 2007.

7.  If the series goes the distance Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault should consider giving Nathan Horton some extra attention.  All Horton has done in his first taste of playoff hockey is lead his team in scoring (8 goals and 9 assists), including two game-seven, series winning tallies.

8.  Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien have a long history.  They played together in the 1981/82 season for the St. Louis Blues Central Hockey League affiliate in Salt Lake City.

9.  Manny Malholtra's recovery from his serious eye injury is nothing short of a medical miracle.  Malhotra is a fantastic penalty killer, a terrific face off man and a steady presence in the Canuck's dressing room.  It would be great to see him back in the lineup.

10.  The goaltending advantage in this series is too close to call.  Just take a look at their stats; Tim Thomas, 12 wins, 2 shutouts and a 2.29 goals against average and Roberto Luongo, 12 wins, 2 shutouts and, you guessed it, a 2.29 goals against average.  Both Luongo and Thomas have the ability to steal games and The Cup winner will be determined by who wins this match up.

Good luck Star Selectors and thanks for playing!  Oh, by the way, my call is Vancouver winning their first Stanley six games!

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