Sedin twins take on towering Chara

Lightning forward Martin St. Louis congratulates Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara after the Bruins...

Lightning forward Martin St. Louis congratulates Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara after the Bruins defeated the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in Boston, Mass., May 27, 2011. (Elsa/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

There is no escaping the intimidating 6-foot-9 shadow of towering Boston Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara.

That's the first lesson the Vancouver Canucks will have to learn.

The Canucks' success -- or lack thereof -- in handling the Bruins captain will likely be the most significant factor in determining who gleefully hoists the Stanley Cup in the coming weeks.

While most series come down to goaltending, Chara's ability to smother and physically abuse the opposition's top snipers can be the difference-maker in the end.

Here are three intriguing matchups in the upcoming Bruins-Canucks final:

1. Beantown's Big Zee vs. the Sedin Twins

Early in these playoffs, Vancouver's talented twins were mockingly being called The Sedin Sisters by a few sarcastic rubes out there who were frustrated by the poor performances of Daniel and Henrik.

They weren't scoring. Their plus-minus totals were awful.

Both Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook and Nashville Predators blueliner Shea Weber showed that the Sedins can be contained when they are roughed up. San Jose defenceman Douglas Murray tried to do the same, but, let's face it, a Sharks supporting cast featuring smaller defencemen Ian White and Dan Boyle hardly is in the business of physically dominating opponents.

In the end, the Sedins stepped it up against the Sharks after slow starts to the postseason.

Now comes Chara, who presents issues to any forward he lines up against.

The Sedins like to cycle the puck. That's hard to do with a 6-foot-9 man mountain in your way.

If the Sedins can't solve Chara, counting on Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows to carry the offensive load might be asking too much of the Canucks.

2. Louie vs. Not-So-Tiny Tim

The Roberto Luongo-Tim Thomas goaltending duel features two 2010-11 Vezina Trophy finalists who feel they still have a lot to prove.

In Luongo's case, some skeptics feel Team Canada won Olympic gold in 2010 despite the Vancouver netminder's efforts, not because of them. While his admittedly wobbly play at the Winter Games does give that argument some teeth, the bottom line is that he won. Case closed.

The vultures circled again last month when his inconsistency in the first round series against Chicago caused him to be benched for Game 6. But an injury to backup Cory Schneider in that game caused Luongo to return to the Canucks net.

He hasn't looked back since.

Thomas, meanwhile, is an example that late bloomers can prosper too. At 37, the Bruins goalie's acrobatics between the pipes have been more impressive than those turned in by some youngsters in the league who are half his age.

Thomas is a guy who has scratched and clawed his entire career to earn respect. He's getting it now.

3. Bruins power play vs. Canucks special teams

During Game 1 of the Flyers-Bruins second-round series, QMI colleague Chris Stevenson, sitting in the press box near the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center, astutely asked the question: "Can a team go all the way to the finals without scoring a power play goal?"

It was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Sort of. Truth is, those of us on hand that day were all amazed that the Bruins had advanced that deep in the post-season without scoring with the man advantage.

The Bruins, of course, have scored some power play goals since then. Five of them. For the playoffs, they are just 5-of-61. That's still ugly.

Coach Claude Julien has started putting Chara in front of the opposing goalie in order to create some crease chaos on the power play. Given the problems Dustin Byfuglien has caused Luongo by doing the same thing in the past, it might be a smart move.

It had better be. After all, a team can only go so far when sputtering on the power play.

Can't it?

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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