VANCOUVER – It’s like going full circle for Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The Swedish twins are returning to the building where they were drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, hoping to bring home the biggest prize in the franchise’s history.
The Canucks will face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup final, which begins Wednesday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The TD Banknorth Garden, where the Bruins play their home games, is the same building where the Canucks selected the brothers second and third overall in the 1999 draft.
“It’s a special building, a special team,” Henrik Sedin, the Canucks’ captain, said Saturday. “There’s a lot of history. It’s going to be fun.”
The Canucks finally learned their opponent in the final when Boston beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 Friday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Vancouver has been waiting since eliminating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in double overtime Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Western final.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be Saturday.
In playing the Bruins, the Canucks face a team much like themselves. Both are strong defensively and have outstanding goaltenders.
The difference could be that the Canucks have more offensive depth than the Bruins.
The Bruins rely on the line of Milan Lucic, a Vancouver native, David Krejci and Nathan Horton for most of their scoring. Krejci has 10 goals during the playoffs while Horton has eight.
Henrik Sedin says the Canucks can’t focus totally on that one unit.
“They have big players with good depth up front,” he said. “They have a lot of guys that can score and put the puck in the net. Maybe not a lot of big names, but they have good depth.”
Henrik Sedin leads the playoff scoring race with 21 points. The Canucks have two lines that can produce points and a third that can chip in when needed.
A fast, mobile Vancouver defence is also dangerous, with Kevin Bieksa collecting five goals.
The Bruins defence is led by Norris Trophy finalist Zdeno Chara, a six-foot-nine, 260-pound monster.
As far as Daniel Sedin is concerned, Chara is just another on the list of defencemen the brothers have managed to work around.
“We see those kind of defencemen every night,” said Daniel, who won the NHL scoring race this season with 104 points, including 41 goals.
“For us, we try to go into each game and play the same way. Obviously Chara is a big man. He is a physical guy. It’s going to be tough. All we can do is go out there and play our game and see what happens.”
Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas are opposites in style. Both are Vezina Trophy finalists.
The big, rangy Luongo uses a traditional butterfly style. He relies on his size to take up space and doesn’t give shooters much to aim for.
Thomas is nicknamed The Tank because of his stocky statue. He reads the flow of the game and uses his reflexes to make big saves. Thomas can look totally out of position, but scramble back to make a stop.
“He just battles,” said Luongo.
“We can’t take it for granted that just because he’s not in position, we are going to score. We have to bear down and bury it in the net, because he’s going to find a way to make saves if we don’t.”
Henrik Sedin said Thomas is a puzzle.
“He makes saves you don’t think he’s going to make, and lets in goals that sometimes maybe he should have,” he said.
The Bruins tight defensive game is similar to that of the Nashville Predators, who the Canucks beat in six games during the Western Conference semifinal.
“Every team is a little different,” said defenceman Aaron Rome, who looks ready to return to the lineup after missing the final two games against San Jose with an undisclosed injury.
“These guys have their tendencies and Nashville had there’s. The matchups are going to be somewhat the same but they have some players that we have to look out for.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said the Canucks have been most successful during the playoffs playing a puck possession, attacking style of game.
“In all three series what we have tried to do is really play to our strengths and play our way,” he said. “That’s what we are going to continue to try and do here.
“They are a different challenge. As far as what we need to do to be successful, that hasn’t changed. We are going to play to our strengths.”
One question facing the Canucks is the health of centre Ryan Kesler, who has been mentioned as a possible playoff MVP. Kesler limped off the ice, dragging his left leg, in the second period of the final game against San Jose.
He returned to score the tying goal, but has missed two practices with the team.
Centre Manny Malhotra, out since suffering a serious eye injury on March 16, has been cleared to play and could dress for the final.
The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy this year after leading the regular season with 117 points. Boston was seventh with 103.
The Canucks led the league in scoring with 262 goals and allowed the least with 185. The 195 goals allowed by Boston was third least.
Both franchises are looking to end long droughts of futility.
The Canucks, who are playing in their first final in 17 years, have never won an NHL championship since joining the league in 1970.
The Bruins have won five Stanley Cups but the last came in 1972. Their last appearance in the final was 1990 when they lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers.
The teams have never met in the playoffs before. The Bruins scored a 3-1 decision over the Canucks at Rogers Arena in the club’s lone meeting during the season.
This is the third time Vancouver has gone to a final, but the first where the Canucks are favoured by many to win the Cup.
“I’d rather be the favourite than the big-time underdog,” said Henrik Sedin.
“We know Boston is a good team and we’re not big favourites. We know if we can play good we are going to have a good chance.”