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2011 NHL Playoffs: Stanley Cup Finals Predictions

The Boston Bruins haven't won the Stanley Cup in 39 years.

The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup in their 40 years as a franchise.

One of these two historic fanbases will finally have something to celebrate after this series. Let's break down the matchup.

Offense

The Vancouver Canucks are completely loaded with offensive talent, headed by Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin, and Daniel Sedin. These three players tore up the league during the regular season and have been the best players on the ice for the Canucks throughout this playoff run.

Boston depends on young forwards for their scoring. Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, and David Krejci lead the Bruins in playoff scoring; all three are 25 years or younger and just entering their prime. While the young players have stepped up for Boston, they're still outgunned by a Canucks juggernaut.

Defense

Boston prides themselves on being a stout defensive team, and the results are sparkling. They've shut down three excellent offensive teams in a row, including a 1-0 shutout over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the clinching game of that series. They slow down the pace and use their size to keep physical players off the puck. Boston has an elite top pairing headed by captain Zdeno Chara and plenty of depth behind him. This is the Bruins advantage in this series: they cannot get into shootouts with Vancouver. Keep the score low by frustrating the Canucks' top line.

The Canucks are very solid defensively as well. Kevin Bieksa is having a playoffs to remember and will earn himself a sizeable contract in free agency this offseason. While defense is not their team identity, they did shut down a fearsome San Jose Sharks attack in the Conference Finals -- no small feat. They're good defensively, and likely good enough to frustrate the young Bruins forwards.

Goaltending

Tim Thomas. Roberto Luongo. Two of the very best veteran goaltenders in the league. Slight edge goes to Thomas for a better overall playoffs, but Luongo is no slouch in net and has become stronger and more confident as the playoffs progressed. Luongo will get better scoring support, but Thomas has the better defense in front of him. Call this an even matchup.

Special Teams

Boston has scored five power play goals in these playoffs. Vancouver has scored 17 power play goals, and against more elite defenders. This is a potential landslide advantage for the Canucks. If Boston wants any chance to win this series, they have to play clean and stay out of the penalty box against a Vancouver team that is one of the best at drawing penalties.

Prediction

Vancouver wins in six games.

The Canucks have been the best team in the league throughout the regular season and have confirmed their dominance in the playoffs. They thrived in the tougher conference and have more skill players.The Canucks have beat a Chicago team with elite talent, an offensively peerless San Jose team, and a Nashville Predators team that posed more of a defensive challenge than this Bruins team. Boston has a solid defensive identity, but do they have a player that can step up and carry the offensive load? Advantage goes to the elite, veteran Canucks forwards.

Can Boston win? Of course, but they'll need Thomas to steal at least two games and at least two of their young forwards to play out of their mind. The odds are certainly against them, but I've been doubting Boston all postseason. A championship against this Canucks squad would be the biggest surprise of them all.

Conn Smythe Trophy: Daniel Sedin

The talented forward will get plenty of scoring chances, as Canucks forward (and Hart Trophy favorite) Ryan Kesler is likely to see most of the top defensive pressure from Boston. This will open up plenty of chances for the leading goalscorer in the regular season, and he has the talent to take advantage of these opportunities. If Kesler gets his name on the Cup, I don't think he'll mind losing out on this award even though he's been Vancouver's best player through the playoffs.