Finals Preview; Who will take home the Cup?

 

Head-to-Head
Who will win the AFHL Stanley Cup?

Read both sides, then read Users Reactions.
 
Vancouver Heroes (2)
 

REGULAR SEASON STATS
Record: 148-61-43 (2nd)
Goals: 264 (4th)
Assists: 460 (4th)
Points: 724 (4th)
+/- :  +16 (10th)

PP Points: 241 (5th)
SH Points: 8 (15th)

GWG: 40 (6th)
Wins: 53 (3rd)
GAA: 2.18 (1st)
SV: 2502 (2nd)
SV%: .927 (1st)
Shutouts: 13 (1st)

It is no surprise that the Heroes are in the Finals. They have size, strength, very underrated speed, and a will to win that makes them a serious contender to win the championship. And it all starts with balance.

Coach Ben Rauscher has four lines and three sets of defense that he can play at any time of a game. The Simon Gagne-Henrik Sedin-Daniel Sedin line will cause all sorts of havoc because their cycling ability can wear London's in-zone coverage down. And Eric Staal, who has a nice little checking buddy in Sean Avery, has proven he still has that magical scoring touch.

The Heroes also initiate at the point of attack as well as any team in the AFHL. Their style is not for the faint of heart. It hurts just thinking about the collisions we'll see in this series with the huge hitting potential of Tomas Kaberle, B.J. Crombeen and wrecking machine Sean Avery. Heroes defensemen know how to break down the trap, too. Dan Boyle is a one-man trap breaker whose explosive skating ability will force the Mustangs to target him early. And if he gets loose, look out.

Thanks to their system, size and the fact they can play and thrive on bad ice, the Heroes become a dangerous foe once they get to London.

And, oh, by the way, what happened to the vaunted Stars' power play against the Heroes? The answer is easy. Kaberle and Corvo cleared out down low so that goalies Ryan Miller and Ilya Bryzgalov could see the shots, and aggressive and wily forwards like Hagman, Langkow and Crombeen closed down passing and shooting lanes.

The X-factor in all of this is persistent, consistent and Mr. Everything in the playoffs Henrik Sedin. Henrik has 101 points on the year and he has shown no signs of slowing down. Need a big goal? Henrik is there. Need a big swing in momentum? Yup, Henrik is there, too. Want to see grown men go nuts? Just sic Henrik on 'em. Coach Rauscher knows he has a special weapon in the Sedin Twins.

Simply put, the Vancouver Heroes are a powerhouse. With such a well-balanced team, they will give the Mustangs a good ride, but will they become champs?

 
London Mustangs (5)
 

REGULAR SEASON STATS
Record: 133-83-36 (5th)
Goals: 258 (6th)
Assists: 431 (7th)
Points: 689 (6th)
+/- :  -22 (17th)
PP Points: 223 (6th)
SH Points: 12 (10th)
GWG: 45 (1st)
Wins: 58 (1st)

GAA: 2.61 (9th)
SV: 2712 (1st)
SV%: .912 (8th)
Shutouts: 8 (3rd)

 
London coach Blake Wilson observed that the Heroes "beat a hell of a hockey team" after they outlasted Hollywood in the second round of the playoffs. They're poised to do that again. This could be the best Stanley Cup matchup of the decade. Both teams are deep on offense and in goaltending. They're both physically imposing and defensively sound, which should make for yet another long and grueling series.
 
Where London separates itself -- ever so slightly -- is in the abundance of goaltenders. They have three starting goalies whereas Vancouver only has two. The trio of Hiller-Rinne-Halak could be a problem for the Heroes as their opponents in the first and second round only had one starting goalie.
 

The Mustangs have their fair share of big-name players. Zach Parise, Rick Nash, and Kyle Okposo help form a very well balanced offense that also includes David Perron, Patrice Bergeron and red-hot Jakub Voracek.

The most important advantage that the Mustangs have is in goal. For some reason there are still some Jonas Hiller detractors who don't recognize him for how spectacular he has been all year long. Hiller has his mind set on winning the Cup and debunking his doubters. When he is focused, Hiller is as good as any keeper in the game and this season he has learned to thrive in high pressure.

In a series as closely matched as this one, every small edge is vital and no coach is better at exploiting weaknesses than Wilson. Look for the Mustangs to capitalize on any sloppy play (we're bound to see a few of those from Heroes' defenseman Dan Girardi) and to put pressure on at well-calculated points in the game.

All in all, it will be a great series, with two teams that are virtual images of each other. Heck, even their systems look alike. However, the Mustangs have a team that matches up perfectly in terms of offense and goaltending.


 
Your Take

Heroes or Mustangs? Who will bring home the Cup?


 

 

Heroes' forward Sean Avery was a pest for Martin Brodeur in the second round against Hollywood. Don't expect his role to change in the Finals against London.

TheAFHL.com asked visitors the question that's on every hockey fan's mind: who's going to be the last team standing? We received hundreds of responses from users on both sides of the ice with some of the most interesting ones below.

The Mustangs will win because of the tough matchups they won against the Leafs and Phantoms. They know what it takes to win and probably want it a little more than Vancouver. Mustangs win 7-5.
-- Billy Sims , Austin, Texas

Vancouver is a team of veterans that like to play a defense-oriented game first and force teams into making mistakes. London is a scrappy team that has a lot of speed. Vancouver can't handle speed. Fort Drum was proof of that. Also, London has had a terrific power play in the playoffs while Vancouver was average. If their goalies are able to play every game and London can keep Vancouver from completely dominating the offensive stat categories, they will win convincingly. London 6-4. 
-- Tim O'Connell , Tokyo, Japan

Ryan Miller is the best goalie in the league. The Mustangs lack the offensive talent as well as defensive strategy that Vancouver has come to master. Vancouver has proven goal scorers in the Sedin Twins, Staal, Gagne, and Boyes, as well as muckers with experience such as Sean Avery. With talent like this the Heroes work the neutral ice trap better than any other team in the league including London.
-- Scott Astley , Colorado Springs, Colo.

Is there any question? The Vancouver Heroes are going to crush the London Mustangs. Heroes win 10-0.

-- Ryan Dean , Calgary, Alberta

Vancouver is much faster, has a better goalie, and can check with anyone in the league. London has played two tough series and are somewhat dinged up going into the finals. Vancouver should win the series 8-1.
-- Greg Buckhout , Raleigh, N.C.

The Heroes take this series 7-3 (o.k. maybe 6-3) and here's why: 1.) 2nd and 3rd line match ups - Vancouver has been the deepest team since Manhattan was eliminated. They simply wore down Hollywood's offensive weapons. 2.) Goaltending wins championships - There shouldn't be any question in anyone's mind that Vancouver has, by far, the better goaltending duo. 3.) Ready for the Cup - Not to downplay London's desire to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup, but Vancouver was built for this moment and the Sedin Twins are an advantage.
-- Kent Lawrence , Arlington, Texas

London. They've got incredible firepower (ask the Phantoms), and so far, Vancouver (and Miller) hasn't seen anything like that. Plus, they are incredible defensively (and in goal). And with a London team that scores by capitalizing on mistakes, London's tallies will be few and far between. London just can't match up.
-- Joey McDonald , Waverley, Nova Scotia

It's all about desire and the bottom line is the Heroes want it more. Every Heroe is throwing punishing hits. I don't think the Mustangs have seen that kind of relentless pursuit of the puck yet, and I think it will lead to some uncharacteristic turnovers by the London D. On the other side, London's Defense is more physical than Buffalo or Oshawa City so London won't be able to puch guys like Staal and Gagne around. I like Vancouver 6-4.
-- Matt Buffalo, N.Y.