Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks— on the ice and off the ice.
You have to please the hockey gods on your way to the Stanley Cup Finals. How else would you explain the fortunate calls, bounces and puck luck that typically go the way of a Cup champion?
That's why you don't plan parades after you win your first-round series or, if you're a certain high-profile golfer, you don't diss the sport of hockey. The gods and karma will come back to bite you in the end.
So as the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks get set for Game 1 Wednesday, which team has the best karma heading into the series opener?
Stanley Cup runs always develop good stories along the way and there may not be a better story on the Bruins' side than Tim Thomas and his journey for the NHL. It's been well-documented how long it took Thomas to make himself into an elite goaltender and as he's a few weeks away from becoming a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, taking home his first Cup would be a feel-good piece NBC can play up during its broadcast.
Then there's the redemption angle of the Bruins vanquishing their rivals in the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1, then sweeping the team that made history last season against them in the Philadelphia Flyers. Surely any team that's blown a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in that Game 7 deserves some sort of good karma sent its way in the future.
There's also a bit of a Winter Classic trend that's in the Bruins' favor. In each of the Jan. 1 outdoor games, one team has gone on to win the Cup in the following season. Pittsburgh (2008, Ralph Wilson Stadium) defeated Detroit for the Cup in 2009 and Chicago (2009, Wrigley Field) downed Philadelphia for the title last year.
After the Washington Capitals ended the Winter Classic streak of visiting teams representing their conference in that season's Stanley Cup, can the Bruins keep this trivia fact going?
If we want to talk about bad hockey karma, then what about Nathan Horton's water bottle incident with a fan in Tampa Bay after Game 6? What if some of those hockey gods were from Montreal and were still upset over the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty incident?
What about trophy voodoo? Even with his long reach at 6-foot-9, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara tried to get as far away from the Prince of Wales Trophy while still remaining in the photo next to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Before he could pose, Chara waved over his teammates and the entire Boston lineup surrounded Daly and the trophy for the postgame photo op. Some teams touch the trophy, while others stay far away from it. But what happens if both teams do the same?
As soon as the photographers got their shots of Henrik Sedin, Daly and the Clarence Campbell bowl, the young Canuck twin let off a shout of emotion many hadn't seen during his career. Of course, the only thing Sedin touched was the table that the Campbell bowl was sitting on as he posed before celebrating with his teammates.
"Well, I didn't put in a lot of thought about it," said Sedin afterwards. "I know it was going to be a tough game to win. I talked to a few guys. I mean, this is not the trophy we want to have. That's the bottom line."
Every Stanley Cup champion gets breaks on their route to win No. 16 and the Canucks have been receiving those fortunate breaks. Alex Burrows almost became a goat by taking a penalty in overtime during Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks, but ended up the hero with the series-winning goal three minutes after leaving the box.
Then there's the bounce of all bounces that happened against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7. Kevin Bieksa was the only person inside Rogers Arena to know where the puck was after Alex Edler banked it off the stanchion and it came back out to the blue line:
Finally, there's another benefit to hosting the Olympic Games. Both times Canada has hosted the Olympics (1976 Montreal, 1988 Calgary) a Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup the following year. Can the Canucks continue that streak?
The Canucks seem to have more of the hockey gods on their side. Between Bieksa's goal, the Olympics trivia fact and the strong desire north of the border to see the Canadian Stanley Cup drought finally end, everything seems to be coming up Canucks.
If you were wondering about conference trophy voodoo, there is no benefit statistically of leaving them untouched or touched. According to ESPN, since 2001, teams that have touched the trophies are 4-5 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In years that both teams did the same thing (2001, 2002, 2006, 2008), the Western Conference is 3-1. Again, everything is coming up Canucks.