When Daniel and Henrik Sedin streak down the ice, exchanging crisp passes in a display of their jaw-dropping offensive creativity, it's easy to forget the Vancouver Canucks are the NHL's best defensive team.
When Boston's top line presses the attack and changes styles on the fly it's tough to remember the Bruins are nearly as defensively stingy as the Canucks.
The Stanley Cup finalists are reminding the NHL that elite defensive teams don't have to fall into the trap, or any other defensive scheme that results in boring hockey.
In Game 2 tonight in Vancouver, the Canucks will continue their quest to show it's possible to win a title without retreating into a defensive shell, while Boston will look to build on a quietly impressive offensive season - except for a slumping power play.
Both teams proved their approaches work in the series opener. Vancouver's 1-0 victory was hardly a boring defensive game, with 12 power plays, numerous tantalizing scoring chances and an edge-of-the-seat intensity before Raffi Torres' winning goal in the final 18 seconds.
"Even when we're not getting rewarded, we're out there taking chances and trying to find ways to be aggressive and score," Boston forward Milan Lucic said. "We're not a team that's going to sit back and wait and hide. We try to make things happen."
Vancouver scored more goals (3.15 per game) and allowed fewer (2.2) than any team in the NHL during the regular season, while Boston was fifth in goals and second in defense, giving up just 2.3 goals per game. The Bruins are outscoring Vancouver in the postseason with 3.05 goals per game to the Canucks' 2.68.
"This team was built on our depth on the blue line," said Christian Ehrhoff, the Canucks' aggressive, puck-moving defenseman from Germany. "That's what we have, eight guys deep. We can take advantage of it in the playoffs, because some teams like to get very conservative. We keep playing aggressive hockey, keep attacking, and it works for us."
Tthe Bruins can fall into a defensive shell when necessary. They didn't have a scorer in the NHL's top 25 during the regular season, but their top line is emerging as one of the best during the postseason with David Krejci setting up Lucic and Nathan Horton.
Even casual hockey fans appear to be catching on to the excitement. The playoffs' early rounds had the NHL's highest U.S. television ratings since 1994, and the Canucks' win over Boston drew the best U.S. rating for a finals opener in 12 years, along with a whopping 5.6 million viewers in Canada.