The Vancouver Canucks had a marvellous regular season that set a franchise record for points and culminated in a Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the NHL.
But that doesn't mean the Canucks' campaign was unassailable.
Closer inspection reveals that the Canucks struggled against defensive-oriented teams that were strong at even strength.
In other words, a team just like the Boston Bruins, their Stanley Cup opponent.
The Bruins reached their first final since 1990 with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Friday, and they haven't lifted the Cup since 1972. The Canucks haven't reached the mountaintop in their 40-year history, so one of these sides will break one of the longest championship droughts in the NHL.
"Boston is maybe the best defensive team in the league," winger Daniel Sedin said. "A great goalie [Tim Thomas]when he is hot, and good defencemen. It's a solid matchup."
Some might say Boston poses a difficult matchup for the Canucks, who had 117 points in the regular season, 14 more than their opponent.
The Bruins were the best five-on-five team in the league this season, scoring 1.4 goals for every one they allowed. Vancouver was second at 1.32. Boston also ranked second in goals against average (2.30) during the campaign, trailing only the Canucks (2.20).
Against the 10 best teams in goals-against average, the Canucks were 9-8-2 this season. Against the 10 best teams at even strength, they were 10-8-3.
Those are reasonable records for any other club, but when you consider the Canucks went 54-19-9, it suggests Vancouver struggled most against teams like the Bruins. Indeed, Boston won the only meeting of the regular season, 3-1 on Feb. 26.
Go even deeper into those numbers, and throw out Vancouver's 3-0-1 record against the San Jose Sharks, who ranked in the top 10 of both categories, and the Canucks are actually below-.500 on both cards. While that might give B's supporters hope, the Canucks did vanquish both the Sharks and the Nashville Predators (third in goals-against average; sixth at even strength) during the postseason, earning eight wins while losing just three times.
"Boston has a bit more depth [than Nashville]in that [offensive]regard, but they are a structured team with some big guys who can bang," goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "But we want to play our systems and make them adjust to us."
Thomas may have gone through some valleys along the Stanley Cup road, but Luongo's counterpart is undefeated in three career games against the Canucks, including two shutouts.Report Typo/Error