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Monday, May 14, 2012

NHL Conference Finals Preview

#8 LA Kings vs #3 Phoenix Coyotes
The Pick: LA Kings in 5 games
This should be a physical and intense series. These two teams are division rivals. They are also playing for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup. Despite the relative obscurity of both teams, this should be an entertaining and extremely well played series.The Coyotes have the home ice advantage, but the Kings have the better team.

The Kings are looking to become just the second eighth seed to ever make the Stanley Cup Finals. LA has lost just one game so far in these playoffs. They are led by Goalie Jonathon Quick; 9-1, a goals against average of just 1.60 per game, and a save percentage of 94.7 %. He is the playoffs leader in all three of those statistics. In the Playoffs, you only go as far as your goalie can take you. Nothing else really matters.  Offensively the King's are led by their Captain, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar. Brown has 7 goals in just 10 playoff games. The King's D corps is led by the offensively gifted Drew Doughty. LA also boasts savvy playoff veterans on the back end in; Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi. LA plays a tough game. They like to forecheck hard and grind the game out in their opponents defensive zone. The Kings may be the most balanced team left in this years playoffs. They definitely have more all around talent then the Coyotes.

Phoenix has gotten to the Conference Finals for the first time in it's  franchise's history. The Coyotes play an extremely defensive style. They often do not forecheck, instead they look to clog up the neutral zone and force turnovers between the two blue lines. They also often collapse on the defensive end in front of their goalie. This all leads to them spending the majority of the game getting out-shot. It is not exactly pretty to watch, but it has worked so far. Mike Smith, Phoenix's goalie, has been their best player all season. He has been arguably the best goalie of these playoffs. Single-handily winning games by himself. The Coyotes have been good on the Power-Play and they have been good at scoring goals at just the right time, capitalizing on opponents mistakes and burying them. Can a team really play this way and make the Stanley Cup Finals? I say no.

#6 New Jersey Devils vs #1 New York Rangers
The Pick: New Jersey in 6 games
These two team are also division rivals. They also play just across the river from one another. This could be the best series of a playoffs full of great series already. Just a month before the Playoffs, in the last regular season meeting between these two teams, this happened. Devils-Rangers Line Brawl. I don't think we'll see a line brawl in this series, but we will see; intense, agressive, physical playoff hockey. This series should be awesome.

The Devil's, of all teams, may be the most exciting team to watch left in the playoffs. They play an offensive style of hockey that the other 3 Conference Finalists do not. They have; three balanced scoring lines led by Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Patrik Elias, A solid D corps, and possibly the greatest goalie of all-time in, Martin Brodeur. The Devil's think offensively and like to get up and down the ice. They also have a physical team that can cycle the puck in the opposing teams zone to create scoring chances and wear down the other team physically and mentally. It is hard to play when you are stuck in your own zone without the puck, for the majority of the game. New Jersey is also well rested having 6 full days off after dispatching Philadelphia. I think the Devil's depth, and the fact that they are well rested will be the keys in a Devil's series victory. 

The Rangers are a blood and guts hockey squad. They leave everything they have out on the ice after every game. The Rangers play a very tight defensive style game. NY loves to block shots and hit the opposing team. The Rangers have had two grueling 7 game series in their first two playoff rounds, and I think fatigue will start to set in the longer this series goes. The Rangers have trouble scoring goals, as they have not scored more than 3 in there last 13 games, but NY does not allow many goals either. The Rangers have not given up more than 3 goals in any of their14 playoff games tying an NHL record. The Rangers are led by; Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, a solid, but not deep D corps, and forwards Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. In the end I think a lack of depth and fatigue will do in this Rangers squad.

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