Monday, May 14, 2012

Into The Crystal Ball: 2012 Conference Final Edition

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.

Western 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

Eastern Conference Final

#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

Stanley Cup Final

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


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