What a second round. Though only one series went past five
games- the topsy-turvy New York Rangers’ seven game victory over the Washington
Capitals- it was still filled with surprises, as the upstart Phoenix Coyotes
and New Jersey Devils found ways to improbably win their way to the third round
against seemingly better opposition. Phoenix faces the Los Angeles Kings,
another upstart, while the Rangers and Devils continue the Rivalry of the
Hudson in a rematch of the epic 1994 Conference Final.
#3 Phoenix Coyotes
vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings.
The story for the Coyotes has been Mike Smith.
Constantly outshot game after game, Phoenix has gotten past the Chicago
Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators on the back of Smith, who has been
echoing the work of Jean-Sebastien Giguere when he went on his amazing run for
the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in their 2003 Cinderella run. The problem is, the
Coyotes are *just* Smith and they’re giving up way too many scoring chances and
have yet to play against a team that can bury those chances. The Kings,
unfortunately for Phoenix, are one of those teams, whose forward depth is
anything unlike the Coyotes have faced so far in these playoffs. The ‘Yotes may
be a feel good story, but unfortunately for them, the story will end quickly in
the third round. Kings 4, Coyotes 0
#1 New York Rangers
vs. #6 New Jersey Devils.
The Hudson River Showdown, the first since 2008
and the first time in the Conference Final since the memorable 1994 showdown
that was decided in double overtime by Stephane Matteau. The particulars are
different here- though Martin Brodeur is still in the New Jersey net, the
Devils are the offensive team this time and the Rangers are the defensive one.
New Jersey is this far due to the emergence of Ilya Kovalchuk into a playoff
threat after years of being solely a regular season player as well as the
resurgence of Brodeur, who is looking more like the 31-year-old who last led
the Devils to their third Cup in 2003 than the 40-year-old who has had to dog
chatter that he’s over the hill. Still, the Devils face a team that’s better
defensively than any other they’ve faced this post-season, as the Ranger shot
blocking machines- led by Dan Girardi and Marc Staal- and the game’s best
two-way player in Brad Richards, will make the Devils’ offence- which doesn’t
get much production from the point to begin with- very hard to come by. This
will still be a competitive series, but the Rangers’ defence should win the
day. Rangers 4, Devils 2
E#1 New York Rangers
vs. W#8 Los Angeles Kings.
The two epicentres of the United States, this is
the dream Final for the NHL. It may not have the sex appeal that it should,
since both the Rangers and Kings have somewhat flown under the radar, but it
should still create a buzz. The series will be strength versus strength, as the
Rangers’ stoic defence squares off against the flashy Kings offence, mirroring
their respective cities. Thus, whoever wins this series will be the one that
can counter the other team’s strengths the best, and the Kings- whose defence
has proven capable whereas the Rangers have yet to provide consistent offence-
are the best bet to do that against New York. Kings 4, Rangers 2