Sun May 13th: LA Kings @ Phx Coyotes TIME: 5:00 PM TV: RDS, TSN, NBCSN
Tue May 15th: LA Kings @ Phx Coyotes TIME: 6:00 PM TV: RDS, TSN, NBCSN
Thu May 17th: Phx Coyotes @ LA Kings TIME: 6:00 PM TV: RDS, TSN, NBCSN
Sun May 20th: Phx Coyotes @ LA Kings TIME: 12:00 PM TV: CBC, NBC, RDS
Tue May 22nd*: LA Kings @ Phx Coyotes TIME: 6:00 PM TV: CBC, RDS, NBCSN
Thu May 24nd*: Phx Coyotes @ LA Kings TIME: 6:00 PM TV: CBC, RDS, NBCSN
Sat May 26nd*: LA Kings @ Phx Coyotes TIME: 5:00 PM TV: CBC, RDS
When you look at the hockey analysts expectations for the Kings last September before the season began, it’s not really that surprising they’re in the conference finals beginning Sunday. Many people had them challenging San Jose for the Pacific Division title. However, what ensued for this team was a roller-coaster season that featured a coaching change, a systems change, a blockbuster trade (Carter for Johnson) and a team that finally played up to its potential late in the season.
The Coyotes, well, it is absolutely stunning they’re here. Most people in September had the Coyotes missing the playoffs entirely after losing their star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadlphialast summer. Credit goaltending coach Shawn Burke, because enter in goalie Mike Smith, who has one-upped Bryzgalov, and not only did Phoenix make the playoffs but won the Pacific division before upsetting wins over Chicago and Nashville to get to this point.
Which goalie has been better so far? Can you really say if its Mike Smith or Jonathan Quick? The NHL’s two hottest playoff goalies meet in a delicious conference final matchup. Thus far Smith’s .948 save percentage and Quick’s .949 save percentage are ridiculous statistics. As it stands the Kings and Coyotes are also the two stingiest playoff teams in goals against per game. Both goalies got into the heads of opposing players in the opening two rounds. Each team will have similar game plans, which consists of crashing the net, looking for rebounds, screening the goalie, and gets lots and lots of pucks on target. There’s no fancy way to beat either of these unbelievable goalies. It will just take some old-fashioned hard work to determine a winner in each and every game.
The Kings were ridiculed for their inept offense for most of the regular season. The Coyotes always have to work harder than others to manufacture goals. But in the postseason, the floodgates have opened for both teams. The Kings are averaging three goals per game, while the Coyotes are just behind them at 2.6. Not too shabby for two teams that were obviously below that in the regular season.
The Kings are led by their top two lines, one centered by Anze Kopitarand the other by key offseason acquisition Mike Richards. Both units play all 200 feet of the ice and so far, have been just too much to handle for opposing teams. Meanwhile, the Coyotes have been more of a scoring-by-committee club, Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermettecenter the Coyotes top two lines. Vermette, a late-season pickup, has been nothing short of terrific, leading the team with nine points (5-4) in 11 games.
Both teams got here with big-time contributions from their blue-line. Few teams, collapse in front of their net to block shots like the Coyotes, and the D-core is a huge part of that.
Both teams have coaches who seem to be pushing all the right buttons. Coyotes Dave Tippett is maximizing what he’s got on his roster like no other coach in the league. While Darryl Sutter has found a way to finally have the Kings play up to their potential, which they struggled to do out of the gate this season. Both coaches have old-school ways about them, their player either play full out or they don’t play at all.
Two straight rounds Dustin Browns has been the Kings’ most impactful skater, leading the team in scoring and hitting every player in sight. His clutch play is a critical reason the Kings are where they are. If he continues, he should help them get to the finals.
While the Kings have more talent and are favoured to win this series after knocking off the top two seeds in the West. In Mike Smith, the Coyotes will need him to be the MVP to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
While it would be great to choose Phoenix, especially after what they pulled off against the heavily favoured Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. The Kings have also been as impressive taking out both Vancouver and St. Louis, making them the team to beat not only in the West, but the favourite of the four remaining teams.
SMYTH: Kings in six.