Just when you thought that you had the NHL playoffs sorted out in your head – the teams’ involved throw you a collective ‘curve-ball’! This is of course very prevalent in the Western Conference – as two very unlikely teams will do battle to get to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
No experts picked the #8 LA Kings and #3 Phoenix Coyotes to be the only two teams left standing in the West. As a matter of fact – in the case of the Kings – there have only ever been two previous #8 seeds get this far in NHL history. The 2006 Edmonton Oilers went all the way to the Stanley Cup (lost to Carolina in seven games), and the 2010 Montreal Canadiens were knocked out in the Eastern Conference Final.
On the other side of the coin, the Coyotes’ franchise has been in the NHL since 1979-1980, when they were the original Winnipeg Jets. The organization has advanced to the Western Final for the first time in their history this year, and have exceeded all expectations in this playoff run.
So who has the upper hand in this one?!
In the regular season, these Pacific Division foes played six times. They went 3-3 against each other, and had a combined 25 goals in the six games. The Kings had 13 goals, while the Coyotes had 12. Pretty close to call – and even tougher to predict who is the favourite! In those six tilts – three were shutouts.
So logically, goaltending will win this Western Conference Final – and someone obviously has the advantage here, right?! No – that is not the case between Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith! Here’s the postseason numbers for your analysis:
LA Kings Jonathan Quick - 8 wins, 1.55 GAA, .949 Save %, 1 shutout.
Phoenix Coyotes Mike Smith – 8 wins, 1.77 GAA, .948 Save %, 2 shutouts.
So then, who you going with?! This match-up is yet another example of what makes the NHL playoffs so much fun. No one honestly thought these teams would be where they are, and now no one can clearly say who’s the favourite! Either way, one team is going to the Stanley Cup for the first time in history (Coyotes), while the other side could be going for the first time since 1993 (Kings). Enjoy this series wherever you are!
You can follow Murph on Twitter throughout the NHL playoffs @MurphOnIce