Mon May 30 01:33pm EDT
Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks— on the ice and off the ice.
There are going to be topics in our 2011 Stanley Cup Final previews that will feature close calls, hot debates and virtual toss-ups when comparing the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks.
This is not one of those topics.
The fact is that when it comes to special teams, one of the Stanley Cup finalists is really, really good and the other one is average in one facet and humiliatingly mediocre in another.
Who has the better special teams: Boston or Vancouver?
Yes, that's supposed to be a complement.
The Bruins' kill is ninth in the playoffs, having allowed 14 goals on 72 chances for an 80.6-percent success rate. That's a few clicks down from the 82.6-percent rate from the regular season, but respectable when you consider they played 14 games against very good power play units for Montreal and Tampa Bay.
Zdeno Chara(notes) leads the team with 3:04 shorthanded TOI, followed by Dennis Seidenberg(notes) (2:51). Gregory Campbell(notes) is the top killing forward for the Bruins (2:13), which is ironic because the Bruins get all of their power plays due to his being on the roster.
As for the Bruins' power play … take it away, Joe Haggerty of CSN New England:
The power play is a living, breathing black hole on the team and kills momentum with the cold-hearted precision of an assassin. An 8.2 percent success rate through the playoffs will become a fatal flaw against the Vancouver Canucks, and could eventually cost the Bruins a member or two of the coaching staff when all things are reviewed after the finals have concluded.
He's being kind. The Bruins are 5-for-61 on the power play, and have three players with multiple points on the man advantage. There are four teams that were eliminated in the first round (Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Buffalo) that scored as many or more power-play goals than the Bruins have through three rounds.
Much of the blame has fallen to point man Tomas Kaberle(notes), who leads the team with 3:46 of power-play ice time on average. This is because the Bruins traded for him to improve the power play. In essence, it's like being transferred from one Burger King to another and then suddenly being unable to construct a Whopper or work the broiler. Here's you mop, son.
It's hard to envision the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup without something from their power play … but then again, it was hard to imagine they'd get to the finals with it either. And yet here we are.
That said: Decline the penalty, B's. Just decline it.
The Vancouver Canucks finished the regular season with the League's top power play (24.3 percent) and finished 0.6 percentage points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the League's top penalty kill (they were third behind the Penguins and Washington Capitals).
Their power play has remained top notch. Their kill hasn't, but there's a chance it could regain form in the Final.
First, on the power play: The Canucks have nine players with multiple points and have clicked at a 28.3-percent conversion rate (17-for-60). Henrik Sedin(notes) has 10 power-play points (1 goal, 9 assists) while Daniel Sedin(notes) (5 goals) and Ryan Kesler(notes) (4 goals) have been the goal-scorers. Getting Christian Ehrhoff(notes) back in the lineup will only make this group more potent.
Where their power play has been really impressive? On the road. The Canucks are 12-for-30 on the road with the man advantage, for a 40-percent conversion rate. Granted, some 5-on-3s helped matters, but they still put the puck in the net.
On the kill, the Canucks have relied on Dan Hamhuis(notes) (3:27), Alex Burrows (3:09), Kevin Bieksa(notes) (3:01) and Ryan Kesler (2:59) primarily, with Alex Edler, Sami Salo(notes), Jannik Hansen(notes) and Mason Raymond(notes) also seeing time.
He was their leading forward on the kill during the regular season, and is an ace on special teams. His presence could free up Kesler from the kill, or simply add another stifling defensive presence to the rotation. Either way, a Vancouver kill plus Malhotra vs. a Boston power play that couldn't score on a 5-on-1 with an empty net is a fairly significant advantage for the Canucks on paper.
Oh, yeah, spoiler warning …
Vancouver has the special teams advantage.
Boston's PK is no slouch, as it showed in keeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in check for most of the Eastern Conference Final. But it's going to have to again keep the Canucks power play from lighting up the scoreboard because, unless it inexplicably catches fire, the Bruins' power play will again be MIA against an effective Vancouver kill.