**Editor’s note: This post was written prior to the completion of Monday’s playoff games.**
The NHL playoffs continue to progress with lots of exciting games and great action. Seriously, if you haven’t watched a game yet, just give it a try. You’ll find that hockey is exciting, and a team right now that is generating a lot of talk and great excitement in a city that normally at this time considers hockey an afterthought is the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are in the Western Conference finals after sweeping the St. Louis Blues. By the way, the Blues were the two seed. The Kings are the eight seed. Eight seeds are not supposed to make this deep a run in the playoffs. The Kings knocked off the one seed, the Vancouver Canucks, in five games; they just knocked off the Blues in four games. They are the first team in NHL history to knock off the top two seeds in the same conference. They are an astounding 8-1 this postseason. Led by goalie Jonathan Quick, who is playing his way into being known as one of the top three to five goalies in the game, and guys like Dustin Brown, the Kings are a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Cup. And they have Los Angeles excited about hockey. Now that’s cool.
In the other Western Conference series, the Phoenix Coyotes hold a commanding series lead over the Nashville Predators. The Predators are a balanced team offensively and defensively, but have struggled to get much by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith. Meanwhile the Coyotes are doing enough to get by the Predators defense and get shots on Pekka Rinne and they have found success at times. Rinne did not play well in the first two games in the desert. A Coyotes-Kings series looks certain.
In the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils have a stranglehold on their series with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils have a 3-1 lead in the series. They have the better goaltender in Martin Brodeur, and their stars are playing better. Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk are playing better than Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. The Flyers look like a completely different team than in their first round series with the in-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s like all of their energy has been zapped. The Devils appear to be sending the Flyers packing soon.
The closest series in the second round is the New York Rangers-Washington Capitals series. The series was tied 2-2 headed into last night’s game five. This series has seven games written all over it. We’ve already seen a triple overtime game, and we have two sharp shooters in Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and New York’s Marian Gaborik. Plus, the two goalies are playing well enough to keep their respective team in it. Whichever team wins this series, the NHL will be happy. If the Rangers win, the league’s largest market will be more in play. If the Capitals win, arguably the best player in the sport in Alex Ovechkin will be on center stage. In my opinion, the NHL can’t lose.
It has been an exciting NHL postseason so far and it will only get better. Catch all of the action on the NBC Sports Network, CNBC and NBC. Playoff hockey is much more intense and faster than regular season hockey with both teams often racing end-to-end to trying to score, and there are lots of big hits.