Media day at the Stanley Cup final is always a little bit tricky. The Vancouver Canucks have been off for eight days already, the Boston Bruins five. By now, virtually every stone has been turned, every angle relating to the series explored. Most players are disengaged, muttering conventional hockey replies to standard hockey questions and generally can't wait to get things started.
A handful of players will play along, provided the come-on appeals to them and isn't just the same question they heard yesterday or the day before or the day before that. On Tuesday, the Canucks' Christian Ehrhoff was asked to imagine himself 10 years into the future, sitting beside James Duthie on the TSN panel, and provide his insight into a Stanley Cup final matching Vancouver's speed against Boston's size, Vancouver's scoring talent against Boston's scoring balance, Vancouver's power play against Boston's discipline, Vancouver's fresh-faced Sedin twins against Boston's massive 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara. With the full beard, the bushy eyebrows and the Slavic features, Chara looks as if he could have played a Bond villain in the Cold War-era films of the Sean Connery era.
Chara is probably the X factor in a series where the goaltending match-up looks dead even, but most of the other variables tilt slightly in the Canucks' favour.
Ehrhoff, smiling, listed three primary deciding factors, beginning with the battle of the two elite-level goaltenders, Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo. "That's one of the main duels we're going to see," said Ehrhoff. "Then special teams. We've got to keep going the way we've done and shut down Boston.
"But it's definitely going to come down to one thing - who is the harder-working team. That's what I would say."
Interesting, because as much as hard work is an overworked cliché, of all the things the Canucks are, their blue-collar work ethic probably gets the least amount of attention.
Vancouver is a fast team, and in these playoffs, has used its speed effectively at different times. Vancouver is a composed team, after a skittish first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, playing a far more instinctive brand of hockey after that early scare. Vancouver is a balanced team, so if the Sedins struggle to score, Ryan Kesler can pick up the slack - and vice versa. Championship teams do that, or they can provided Kesler's injury in the last round against the San Jose Sharks (groin? hamstring?) doesn't hamper his effectiveness in any meaningful way.
More than anything, Vancouver can spread the work around among six quality defencemen, while Boston relies heavily on two, the minute-munching pair of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, who are both playing over 28 minutes per night to run one-two in these playoffs.
In theory, the Canucks would want to wear them down, but that may be easier said than done, according to Bruins coach Claude Julien, who says that among the many things Seidenberg does well, he also possesses tremendous stamina - and thus, overplaying the pair is not much of a concern.
"He is one of those guys that just never seems to get tired," said Julien of Seidenberg, who was Ehrhoff's defence partner on the 2010 German men's Olympic hockey team that played here last year.
The Bruins put Seidenberg and Chara together in the opening round against the Montreal Canadiens, and they've been solid ever since. The challenge of facing the Sedins is one Seidenberg embraces: "Yeah, I love shutting down those guys - or trying to, at least. There's nothing better than having a big challenge ahead of you.
"I think we're ready. In the first series it was [Tomas]Plekanec and [Michael]Cammalleri and [Brian]Gionta and those guys. Second it was Philly with one of the highest-scoring offences during the regular season. And last series, we had [Steven]Stamkos, [Vincent]Lecavalier and [Martin]St. Louis. So I'm sure we're well prepared for what's going to come at us."
The Canucks haven't seen much of the Bruins and Chara over the years, leaving captain Henrik Sedin to predict there will be a short feeling-out process early in the series to see what works against his massive wingspan - and what doesn't.
"It's tough for me to say what his tendencies are - like if you want to get close to him, or if you want to try to move around him," Sedin said. "I don't know. We'll see."
Nor does Sedin think Boston's victory in the only regular-season meeting between the teams counts for much either. His theory is that one game of 82 rarely provides a good snap shot no matter how it turned out. Maybe you were on your game that night and so, relying on a positive memory might give you a false sense of security. Or it might have gone the other way and been one of those nights when the legs just wouldn't respond.
The Stanley Cup final provides a fresh canvas, a clean slate, a chance to see any number of subplots and story lines develop. It's June and they're playing hockey here for the first time in a long time. After all the endless waiting and watching, the time to drop the puck is finally at hand - and not a moment too soon.Report Typo/Error