In year’s past we have seen goaltenders steal the show in games of the Stanley Cup Finals, from names like Antti Niemi and Cam Ward, to Marc-Andre Fleury, and the many who have come before them, goaltending plays an important role when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup. This year, goaltending will be the key to winning the series, and that pressure lies on the backs of two men, Boston’s Tim Thomas, and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo.
This could be the closest cup finals we have seen in years (PHOTO: Nhl.com)
This year is a story of two similar teams, The Vancouver Canucks, and The Boston Bruins. Both teams put up similar point totals throughout the playoffs (Boston has 159, Vancouver has 140) Both have similar goal totals (Boston with 58, Vancouver with 50) and both are close in total shots on goal (Boston with 573, Vancouver with 562) And they share the same number of blocked shots(262). The only real difference being the powerplay percentage (Vancouver at 16.7% and Boston at 11.4%). This shows just how important goaltending is going to be for both teams in this what should be a very close series.
Tim Thomas (PHOTO:AP)
For Tim Thomas, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing to get to the finals. He has let in multiple goals in 12 of 18 games this postseason, but has managed to make a playoff leading 560 saves along the way, as well as maintain a .930 save percentage and 2.29 goals against average. So this is by no stretch a bad playoff for Thomas, but there have been some goals, some by fault of defense, some by his own doing, that he would have liked to have had back. Thomas has stolen multiple games this playoff season (Game 5 Vs. Montreal, Game 2 Vs. Philadelphia, Game 2 Vs. Tampa Bay)
Against Vancouver, he will need to be on the top of his game, as he is looking at one of the most dangerous duos in hockey (Daniel and Henrik Sedin), as well as one of the hottest scoring centers and shotblockers in the playoffs (Ryan Kesler). He needs to not be as aggressive as he was last round against Tampa Bay, they lit him up when they got him moving out of the crease. And when Vancouver gets on the powerplay, Thomas will have to be their best penalty killer, bar none. If all of this comes together for Thomas, the biggest prize in hockey could be his.
Roberto Luongo looks to give the Canucks their first cup win. (PHOTO:AP)
For Roberto Luongo, the name of the game this playoff season has been consistency. Luongo has maintained a 2.99 goals against average and a .922 save percentage making 487 saves along the way. He, like Thomas, has had games he would like to forget, including the series vs. Chicago in which he was pulled 2 times after rough starts. But after that first round, he has caught fire making at least 20 saves in each game since, including brilliant performances in game 2 against Nashville (46 saves), and games 4 and 5 against San Jose ( 35, 56 saves).
Against Boston, Luongo will face shots from all angles, especially from snipers Nathan Horton and David Kreijci. Not to mention he will have to face Zdeno Chara’s bombs from the point, this is where one of his best assets, his shot blockers, will come in handy. Luongo needs to stay calm under pressure as Boston has a habit of bringing offense in waves, if he can ride out their offensive storms, he will give his team the best chances to win. He also needs to work on rebound control, multiple times he has lost the puck on simple shots he should have covered, and those have turned into scoring chances, and goals. If Luongo can do these two things, the Canucks will have the best chance to end their 41 year cupless drought.
We see in the ads “History will be made”. Every year, that sentiment rings true, but this season, the men in the pipes will be the ones who will hold the key to changing that history. Will the Bruins win their first cup in 39 years? Will the Vancouver Canucks win their first cup since coming into the league 41 years ago? The answer lies between the pipes.