The NHL’s conference finals are underway. Four teams remain. In the Western Conference, it’s the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings against the third seed Phoenix Coyotes. Two power house hockey franchises in the West wouldn’t you say? More on that series in a second. The Eastern Conference final features the top seed New York Rangers against the sixth seed New Jersey Devils. We’ll get to their series shortly. Now let’s take a look and preview the Kings-Coyotes series.
The Kings lead their conference final series with the Coyotes 1-0 thanks in large part to Jonathan Quick, continuing to be a brick wall in net for them, but also thanks to their offense. They had forty-seven shots in game one. That is a lot of pressure to put on a goalie to stop them all. Unfortunately for Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, he wasn’t able to stop them all, giving up three goals (Dwight King would add an empty netter late in the game). The Kings have found their mojo on offense and that is bad news for the Coyotes. As good as the Coyotes have played this postseason, the Kings have played better. They are 9-1 this postseason, and they are not looking back. Dustin Brown is leading the charge on offense for the Kings and not even a stellar goaltender like Smith will be able to help. The Kings will win this series in six games.
The Rangers, like the Kings, lead their series 1-0 following their 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils. Scoreless through two periods, Dan Girardi got one by Martin Brodeur less than a minute into the third period, the only goal the Rangers would need though they tacked on two more. The Devils may have had more rest, but the Rangers were far more focused and physical. Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in net once again. He has been all postseason. The Rangers are not the best team ever to get the one seed in the east. In fact, the Washington Capitals should have won the series in my opinion. But the Rangers are very physical and have to great leaders who can score in Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. The Devils have good offense; Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk have played very well this offseason, but Lundqvist proves to be a tall task in front of them. And if the Devils ever get a lead, there’s a good chance they blow it, because the Devils have struggled to keep a lead in the playoffs. Brodeur has had very good games, but also has had his moments where he’s given up a few soft goals. The Rangers, though not the greatest, will win this series in five or six games.
One Stars note to pass along. The team has hired former head coach and general manager Bob Gainey as a team consultant. Gainey coached the team from 1990-96, gaining the GM role in 1992. He was the GM when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999. Gainey stepped down as GM in 2002. He most recently was the Montreal Canadiens general manager from 2003-10. The Stars need that extra voice, that extra opinion, that extra experience when it comes to infusing this team with more talent. Gainey will work with current general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. Given what the Kings and Coyotes have done this postseason, the Pacific Division is going to be tough next year and the Stars need more talent to be able to beat the top teams and make it to the playoffs. Gainey is already a proven winner and you hope he will be able to get the Stars back to the playoffs and get more excitement around the Dallas area about Stars hockey.