2012 NHL Playoffs: Lance’s Conference Finals Predictions

2012 NHL Playoff bracket - Lance's Predictions

I'm predicting a New York vs Los Angeles Stanley Cup Final. How cool would that be?

Wow. I was 0-fer in the conference semis. The Kings swept the 2nd-seeded Blues. The Coyotes preyed on the Predators. The Devils weathered the offensive storm that was the Philadelphia Flyers, and King Henrik and the Rangers outlasted Braden Holtby and the Capitals. All contrary to my predictions. Well then.

Let’s turn the page and try again, shall we?

Here are my predictions for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals…

Western Conference:

3. Phoenix Coyotes vs 8. Los Angeles Kings
Whatever the Kings are eating for breakfast, I want some. They have been on a tear in the playoffs, knocking out the top two seeds in the western conference and losing just a single game in the process. Dustin Brown is playing like a rabid wolverine, leading his team in hits, shots, goals, points, shorthanded goals, shorthanded assists, and plus/minus. Anze Kopitar is his all-star self, and Mike Richards is proving to be a valuable acquisition. Even Dustin Penner, often criticized for his lackluster play, is playing like he did for the Anaheim Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup. The Kings’ defense is playing excellent, as is the entire team in their own zone. Los Angeles has only 2 players with a minus rating. Of course, a lot of that is thanks to the superhuman goaltending we’re witnessing from Jonathan Quick. 1.55 goals against average, .950 save percentage, and an 8-1-0 record speaks for itself.

At the other end of the rink, Mike Smith is having his own spectacular playoff run with an 8-3-0 record, 1.77 GAA, and a .950 save percentage, identical to Quick while facing 126 more shots. Phoenix’s offense is being led its younger, less-experienced forwards. If they want to beat Quick and LA, they will need their veterans to really step up and get those dirty goals. Phoenix plays a great team defense but I think their young defensemen will have some trouble with LA’s bruising forwards. Up until this point, they haven’t had to face any heavyweight offensive forces like Brown and Penner.

Ultimately, this should be a very tight series but I see Los Angeles coming out on top.
Eastern Conference:

1. New York Rangers vs 6. New Jersey Devils
Henrik Lundqvist has remained solid for his New York Rangers, again showing why he is constantly considered one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. The Rangers’ offense is being led by offensive force Brad Richards, offensive force #2 Marian Gaborik, and young defenseman Michael Del Zotto?! Captain Ryan Callahan is leading by example with an incredible 63 hits, 23 blocks and 41 shots on goal. The man does everything. However, the Rangers have played 14 games, more than any other team remaining in the playoffs. Sooner or later fatigue has to set in.

The New Jersey Devils have also played their fair share of games, winning in game seven of the first round and then having a short break after sending the Flyers home in 5 games. Goaltending legend Martin Brodeur is showing that he’s not ready to retire yet, and offensive talents Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Travis Zajac are racking up the points. And while they don’t have any particularly big-name players on defense, they’re getting it done. The Devils have one–just one– player with a minus rating. And that player is Kovalchuk, who leads the team with 12 points so at least he’s producing at the other end.

I hate to say it (for the Rangers’ sake), but I think they’re going to see another game 7.

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