The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are going to have to substantially improve their puck management skills if they're going to have any degree of success against the Vancouver Canucks. Both the Bruins and Lightning have had a real tough time handling the puck in the Eastern Conference Final series. They have been breaking down and breaking down often under pressure.
The Canucks have an unbelievably fast and physical forecheck that makes it tough for good teams at the best of times. I've talked to a lot of coaches in both conferences and they all tell me the exact same thing: if Tampa and Boston do not improve their puck management skills, they cannot match up against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.
I'm not saying it's going to be a blow-out and I'm not saying it's going to be easy or the East doesn't stand a chance because the West is too strong. I always go back to 1995 when the New Jersey Devils faced the Detroit Red Wings. Everyone said Detroit was going to blow New Jersey out because they were just too strong but the upstart Devils swept the Red Wings.
That can happen but I've got to see more improvement from both Boston and Tampa in terms of the way they handle the puck.
Rest or Rust
Normally, I would say having a week off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final is too much time; I think the optimum time is four or five days. Usually when a team goes seven games in one conference final, there is a bit of a penalty paid in coming back fairly quickly, two or three nights later with lots of travel, while the other team is resting. That won't happen this year because the Eastern Conference champs are going to get four days off before they face the Vancouver Canucks.
However, with Ryan Kesler a little wonky and Christian Ehrhoff and Aaron Rome having been out of the lineup for a while, I think the Canucks can use the couple of extra days off; it won't hurt them.