Monday, May 30, 2011

NHL Finals 2011: 5 Biggest Storylines Of the Finals

The Boston Bruins will match up with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday.

The Canucks won the President's Trophy this season, as well as stormed through the Western Conference playoffs, showing that they were undoubtedly the best team in hockey for a reason.

The Bruins, on the other hand, shocked some by making the NHL Finals as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They knocked off the Montreal Canadians, Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning on their way to the Finals.

Many story lines abound for this series. In fact, it was relatively hard to get it down to just five.

The Canucks could become the first team since the NHL lockout to win the Stanley Cup as a President's Trophy winner, and the Bruins have overcame a lot since letting the Flyers come back from a 3-0 series lead in last year's playoffs to go to the Stanley Cup.

Those are just two of many story lines in the much-anticipated 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

5. Manny Malhotra

Malhotra may or may not be able to return to the Canucks for the Stanley Cup Finals, but if he does, that is one crazy story line.

Malhotra was sidelined earlier this season after a puck struck him in the eye during play. The left-eye injury was extremely serious at one point, and many thought his career was over.

After many surgeries, Malhotra is back, but not ready for game situations just yet.

Malhotra was acquired by the Canucks this past offseason to bolster the face-off and defensive side of the puck, and he did just that in 72 games this season. He also tallied 30 points.

Malhotra is, in fact, cleared to play by doctors, but there is no word as to whether he will actually play or not.

If he does play, it will be one of the greater comebacks in hockey history.

4. Can Canada win a Stanley Cup?

It must be painful for Canada to be without a Stanley Cup year after year.

Canada has not hoisted the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens won it all in 1993 over Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings. Also, it is only the fifth time a Canadian team has made it to the Stanley Cup in 17 years.

Canada picked a good year to put all hopes in the Canucks, though.

Vancouver is undoubtedly the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

If the Canucks' play in the first three rounds were any indication, Canada will be hoisting their first Stanley Cup since 1993.

3. Boston defense vs. Sedin Twins

The Bruins boast shutdown defenders Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, as well as Tomas Kaberle, who hope to corral the duo of Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

The Sedin brothers finally went off against the San Jose Sharks, especially Henrik, who tallied 12 points in five games.

Overall, the Sedin brothers have been rather quiet all postseason. They were called into question up until the San Jose series for disappearing since the playoffs began.

Now up against the Boston defense, both Henrik and Daniel will have to live up to the hype once again.

2. Can Roberto Luongo Meet Expectations?

Luongo was not tested very often in the San Jose series, but he got the job done, and that is what matters.

The gold medal-winning goalie was called into question, much like the Sedin brothers, for crumbling in the playoffs. Luongo had a terrible Game 4 and 5 against Chicago, allowing six goals and four goals and letting the Blackhawks come back from a 3-0 deficit.

Even when Luongo could not close it out in Game 5 against Nashville, fans were calling for the Canucks' back-up goalie Corey Schneider.

After his rather impressive effort in the Western Conference Finals, Luongo is here to stay. But will he crumble under the pressure of being the only Canadian team left in the playoffs?

We will see.

1. Can the Canucks End Their Drought In Vancover?

The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup in the 40-year history if this franchise.

Lucky number 40 I say.

It will be the team's third trip to the Finals, and undoubtedly the most favorable trip.

The Canucks are high favorites for their relentless offense and suffocating defense, while boasting a gold medal-winning goalie.

Even with history going against them, this Vancouver team has so much chemistry that it is hard not to pick them to win in either five or six games.

The only thing standing in their way from hoisting the Cup in year number 40 is Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who has arguably been the best player in these playoffs.

Get the puck past Thomas, and the Canucks can win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history.

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