Monday, May 14, 2012

Geek Out Stat: King Me

     This year's Eastern Conference Finals is between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. That seems like a good reasonable match-up considering that Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg have been a great goaltending tandem for the Devils. Add the top penalty killing unit during the season to the mix and you got a New Jersey team that deserves to be where they currently are. As for the blueshirts, the Rangers have had a tremendous backcheck all season thanks to the likes of defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Let's not forget that Henrik Lundqvist has helped the Rangers to back up their lofty expectations as a No. 1 seed of the Eastern Conference. And if you're a true hockey fan, you're likely to recall the previous Eastern Conference Finals match-up between the two teams in 1994. Thanks to Stephane Matteau's infamous wrap-around goal in double-overtime in Game 7, the Rangers knocked off the Devils and went on to beat the Canucks for the Stanley Cup. So the Hudson River rematch should live up to the hype.
     As for the Western Conference Finals? It's between...
     The Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. Yep, I said it right. The Los Angeles Kings, who've only made it to the Stanley Cup Finals once (They lost to Montreal in five games in 1993) and the Phoenix Coyotes, who've never even made it past the first round of the playoffs before this season and are rumored to relocate this offseason. Phoenix has been a pleasant surprise this postseason, knocking off both the favored Blackhawks and Predators respectively. With the duo of RW Radim Vrbata and LW Ray Whitney providing the majority of the Coyote's points while Mike Smith minds the net, Phoenix is giving hockey fans in the desert a reason for optimism. But the Kings have been very hard to stop this postseason and invincible on the road, becoming the first team in NHL history to win their first six road games since Colorado started 7-0 on the road in 1999. Yesterday Los Angeles defeated the Coyotes 4-2 on a pair of Dwight King goals in Game 1.
     How did the Kings make it this far, defeating the No. 1 seeded Canucks and No. 2 seeded Blues in the same playoff year? They've gotten a major boost from netminder Johnathon Quick. Quick has been what his last name suggests, only allowing a GAA of 1.95 thanks to his quickness. The Vezina Trophy candidate (and likely winner) has been even more stellar in the postseason, going 9-1 and only allowing 1.60 GAA in ten games during the 2012 playoffs. The Kings have also killed off 24 straight power plays, including five power plays against the Coyotes in Game 1. Plus, the Kings outshot Phoenix in the first period of Game 1 by a margin of 17 to 4. They finished with a 48-27 edge in shots on net with Phoenix blocking 25 shots throughout Game 1. Dustin Brown has also proven to be a hot-hand for L.A. in the playoffs. The right winger has seven goals (three of them game winners) in the playoffs, including one on Sunday in Game 1.
     Thanks to their deep runs this postseason, both the Coyotes and the Kings have renewed interest in hockey for their respective markets. Goaltending's the name of the game this year and it looks to be leading the way towards a Stanley Cup.

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