Five questions Cup final will answer

Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with twin...

Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with twin brother Henrik Sedin during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto January 30, 2010. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

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, Last Updated: 4:49 PM ET

TORONTO -- The Stanley Cup finals begin Wednesday in Vancouver as the Canucks host the Boston Bruins; the first time a Stanley Cup final game has taken place in Vancouver since June 1994 when the Canucks lost in seven to the New York Rangers.

Canucks' fans have been waiting a long time for the team to win its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The team entered the NHL for the 1970-71 season and, many years and gruesome uniform changes later, it is getting a third crack at Stanley Cup glory, having also lost in 1982 to the dynastic New York Islanders.

Bruins' fans have also been chomping at the bit for some time, not having raised the Stanley Cup since Nixon went to China, the Vietnam War was still raging and some smarty pants' broke into Democratic headquarters at Watergate in 1972.

Now that you have some good trivia, here are five other questions that will be answered over the next fortnight as the Canucks and Bruins wage battle on the ice for the toughest trophy in professional sports.

CAN THE BRUINS CONTAIN THE SEDINS?

There's nobody better at maintaining possession of the puck down low in the zone than Henrik and Daniel. Watch the way they protect the puck with their backside and stickhandle while facing the boards; magnificent and effective.

After so-so play in the first two rounds, the 30-year-old twins stepped it up against San Jose in the conference final and are in a groove. Henrik has two goals and 19 assists to lead the playoff scoring parade. Daniel has eight goals and eight assists and sits ninth in post-season scoring.

The Bruins' defensemen will have their hands full, but offensive players, such as David Krejci and Michael Ryder, will have to be tougher on the puck in the defensive zone.

WILL MANNY MALHOTRA'S RETURN UPSET VANCOUVER'S CHEMISTRY?

Malhotra is a character guy and one of the best face-off men in the NHL. The 31-year-old has had several surgeries since being hit in the left eye back in March when a pass deflected off the stick of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson into his eye.

He has been cleared for light contact and has been skating with the team since May 12. Face-offs are critical at this time of the year, so Malhotra's presence in the dot would be welcome, but coach Alain Vigneault has to be thinking if it ain't broke...After all, the Canucks took seven games and a lot of stress to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round, but then dispatched Nashville in six and the San Jose Sharks in five.

CAN THE CANUCKS STOP NATHAN HORTON?

Nathan Horton logged six seasons and 422 games in Florida without ever playing in a playoff game.

Acquired from the Panthers in a trade last June, the imposing forward just turned 26 on Sunday and is enjoying his first foray into the playoffs. He's scored eight goals and added nine assists in 18 games.

Astoundingly, Horton has two game-seven winners - one against Montreal in the opening round and the margin of victory Friday in the clincher against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final. Can you say clutch?

WHICH GOALIE WILL BLINK FIRST?

How close is the tale of the tape between Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Boston's Tim Thomas?

Both goalies have identical 12-6 won-lost records. Both goalies have identical goals-against averages of 2.29. Both goalies have two shutouts in these playoffs. Thomas's save percentage is .929. Luongo's is .922.

Thomas is 37 and was a journeyman in Finland, Sweden, and the AHL before settling in the NHL. He's since played in three NHL All-Star games and led the league this season in both GAA (2.00) and save percentage (.938). He's a late bloomer who seems to have the calmness to win the big games.

Luongo has been a stud since he was chosen fourth overall by the Islanders in the 1997 entry draft, but he didn't see his first NHL playoff action until 2006-07 after six seasons with the Isles and Florida Panthers.

After last year's gold medal performance for Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, Luongo has proven he can win the big game when it matters most and his confidence has ratcheted up as a result.

These are two netminders at the top of their game. It should be fun to watch.

WHO WILL BE THE UNSUNG HEROES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

This is why we watch hockey, or any pro sports. Sure, the stars are glamorous and sublimely talented and fun to watch, but there are always one or two rank- and-file, lunchbox third and fourth-liners who contribute big-time to a championship.

For Boston, look for Chris Kelly or Rich Peverley to score a big goal, deliver a big hit, and/or block a big shot.

For the Canucks, look for Chris Higgins or Jannik Hansen to do the same.

Not everyone whose names are engraved on the Stanley Cup are flashy, but to win 16 playoff games you have to excel at the fundamentals and know what it means to make sacrifices. This is a chance for the support staff - the so- called bottom six forwards - to help write the story.

You can't make a blockbuster movie without the grips and the craft services folks, and you can't win the Stanley Cup without guys willing to take a glove or a puck to the chops and the fourth-line penalty killers.


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