NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Preview

(3.) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (8.) Los Angeles Kings (Season Series: Phoenix won 3-2-1) 

Key Players:

Los Angeles- Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov

Phoenix- Mike Smith, Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Keith Yandle, Martin Hanzal, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Radim Vrbata, Rotislav Klesla , Mikkel Boedker

 

Playoff Scoring Leaders:

Los Angeles- Dustin Brown: 11 pts (6 G, 5 A), Anze Kopitar: 10 pts (3 G, 7 A),  Mike Richards: 8 pts (3 G, 5 A), Justin Williams: 7 pts (2 G, 5 A), Dustin Penner: 7 pts (2 G, 5 A), Drew Doughty: 6 pts (1 G, 5 A)

Phoenix- Antoine Vermette: 9 pts (5 G, 4 A), Keith Yandle: 7 pts (7 A), Mikkel Boedker: 7 pts (3 G, 4 A), Rotislav Klesla: 7 pts (2 G, 5 A), Shane Doan: 6 pts (3 G, 3 A), Ray Whitney: 6 pts (2 G, 4 A)

 

Special Teams:

Los Angeles- PP (17th), PK (4th)

…Playoffs- PP (15th), PK (2nd)

Phoenix- PP (29th), PK (8th)

…Playoffs- PP (8th), PK (4th)

 

 

Well , I can’t say that I had this pegged as a possible conference final match-up before the season started. The Kings unexpectedly demolished the Blues with regard to physicality. Special teams was pretty much the same from round one. The penalty-kill was exceptionally good while their power play left much to be desired. Despite the amount of goals the Kings put up, a decent amount of them can be credited to Elliot’s shoddy play, which was very unexpected after the great regular season and very good performance against San Jose in round 1 (conversely, Jonathan Quick was himself and dominated in goal). Besides, Drew Doughty, the bluelinehasn’t contributed too much to the offense, but they’ve been rocks in their end of the ice. Some extra punch from the young Slava Voynov couldn’t hurt though. 

With all of that being said, the Kings still definitely have enough offense to beat the Coyotes. The Brown-Kopitar-Williams line is still churning out goals and Mike Richards stepped up his offensive game in round two.  Dustin Penner has been a nice surprise during these playoffs on offense too. Jeff Carter has been fairly pedestrian so far though. If the Kopitar line gets slowed down, they’ll need him to start being a passenger so often. 

As for Phoenix, they’re very good at counter-punching and capitalizing on errors. This is a team that won’t beat itself either because of its defensive savvy and they can match the Kings’ physicality. The Coyotes also have that Mike Smith-guy in goal too. The team in front of him has played some solid hockey, but there’s no doubt that they wouldn’t have gotten this far without the god-like performances he’s given his team in goal in virtually every game. Mikkel Boedker has had quite the coming-out party during this postseason and Shane Doan played a larger role on the offense in the 2nd round. Martin Hanzal, who is better-known for his defensive prowess started creating more offense for his team in round two. Antoine Vermette has been one of the few consistent producers up front and leads the team in scoring. 

Like LA, Phoenix also has a very good penalty-kill and a mediocre power play. Oliver-Ekman-Larsson is the youngest member of the Coyotes’ blueline, but he’s their best defenseman. Him, along with Klesla and Yandle have been major contributors to the offense. They have been a more crucial part of the team’s offensive success than their counterparts in LA. That unit has essentially played mistake-free hockey in their own end as well. If there’s one area where Phoenix has an advantage, it’s there.

 

Prediction: Barring some uncharacteristic play from either team, I really don’t see how this doesn’t go seven games with Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick in goal. Both teams have had that “team of destiny” feel during this postseason. Only one will move on to play for the Cup though. I think LA’s elite talent at forward will ultimately give them enough offense to trump Phoenix’s scoring-by-committee offense in a seven-game slugfest. Kings in 7.

 

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