When identifying the can’t-miss games at the beginning of every NHL season, the rematch of Stanley Cup Finals always stands out.
It’s a chance to re-live memorable moments from the game on its biggest stage and assess the ensuing effect of the result and the direction of both teams following their momentous meeting for hockey’s celebrated prize.
The defending champion Boston Bruins started the season slowly. They won just 3 of their opening 10 games and finished October in last place in the Eastern Conference. The losing quickly stopped however, as the Bruins picked up an astounding 25 points out of a possible 26 in November and have kept on winning. They lead the league in goals for and goals against and are poised for another extended playoff run.
The Vancouver Canucks also struggled early on but have a winning percentage of .570 since November and have ascended to the top of the Western Conference. Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who is burdened with more outsized expectations than any player in the league, has 9 wins with a 1.77 GAA and a .938 save percentage in his last 13 starts following an equally sluggish start to the season.
The rosters of both teams have changed slightly; if anything they have both improved. Sophomore Tyler Seguin has emerged as an offensive star for the Bruins as he leads the team with 16 goals and 36 points. For the Canucks, popular prospect Cody Hodgson has impressed during his first full NHL season and David Booth was acquired in a trade from Florida to add even more depth to the forward group.
The striking difference between the two teams is still their contrasting styles, which was the determining factor in the Bruins ultimately besting the Canucks and lifting the Stanley Cup.
Boston’s success is built on size and a stout defensive identity while Vancouver relies on skill and a formidable attack. It’s not quite good versus evil, but the clashing philosophies make for a compelling match up. On one side, you have Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton, physically intimidating players that set the tone for the Bruins. On the other side, you have Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler, and Ryan Kesler, talented players that pace the superb Canucks power play.
The Canucks have opted to start Cory Schneider in Saturday’s game, a decision that was analyzed earlier by Samir Javer on the Sport Sofa, but regardless of who mans the crease for either team, it promises to be a captivating game that will ignite the desire for the arrival of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the Bruins and the Canucks have professed that the game has no added significance, there are valuable principles that can be applied, even if neither team is willing to openly admit it.
In sport and in life, there are always obstacles, and for the Canucks, having overcome their nemesis Blackhawks in the playoffs last season, the next challenge is to stand up to their adversaries, while the Bruins are fighting like any prideful individual would, protecting what they think to be rightfully theirs.