Sunday, May 13, 2012

Western Conference Finals Preview

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Regular Season Series: Tied 3-3

The Lead Up:
The Western Conference Finals will be an All-Pacific affair with the Los Angels Kings battling the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes and Kings were not expected to make it this deep in the playoffs, and to the surprise of many have made it to this point in dominating fashion.

The Kings have eliminated the West's top two seeds in the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues in just nine games, including a four game sweep of the Blues. In doing so, the Kings have gone a perfect 5-0 on the road and 4-1 at Staples Center.

The Kings have captain, Dustin Brown, and goaltender, Jonathan Quick to thank for their post season success. Brown and Quick both have strong cases going for playoff MVP and have carried their team on their backs. Quick has gone 8-1 in the playoffs and boasts a .949 save percentage, while Brown has recorded six goals and 11 points through nine games.

The Coyotes on the other hand, made easy work of two of the three Central Division team to make the playoffs. The Coyotes eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, and the Nashville Predators in five.

Mike Smith has been the story out for Phoenix this post season. Smith has gone 8-3 in the playoffs and holds a .948 save percentage.  Smith holds the lead in shutouts this post season with two, including a game six shutout to eliminate the Blackhawks.

The Injuries:
Both teams have a healthy roster and should be well rested. Both teams have had a week since off their last game, so the idea of rest versus rust may come to mind early in game one.

The Prediction:
If the goal-tending that both teams have displayed through the first two rounds holds up, goals will be at a premium. A one or two goal lead could be enough to win any game in this series. I expect a long, low scoring, hard hitting series with one or two overtimes.

Both teams are defense first, offense second teams and have grade A coaches in Darryl Sutter and Dave Tippett behind the bench. Both Sutter and Tippett are capable of squeezing every drop out of their rosters and will have their guys hitting everything that moves.

The player that will have the most impact in this series will be Jeff Carter. Carter was added to the Kings' line-up late in the season and after all six of the meetings between the Kings and Coyotes during the regular season. If the Kings second line of Carter, Mike Richards, and Dustin Penner start firing on all cylinders the series could easily be the Kings'.

Kings in 6

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