Devils in 6
Coyotes in 6
The Rangers have played two grueling 7-game series after a grueling regular season that featured the "24/7" plus Winter Classic taxation. They've played, in the words of my radio partner Jeff Marek, a lot of "heavy hockey." They gutted out a victory against a Capitals team that believed the best defense was no offense, and now face a Devils team that's as offensive as they've had in the playoffs.
Historically, the Rangers have handled the Devils in the postseason, and Henrik Lundqvist has been particularly difficult to solve for the Devils. But if New Jersey exhibits the same kind of offensive depth they had in previous rounds, and Marty Brodeur continues not to be a liability, the Devils will advance to the Stanley Cup Final in six games — 18 years after the Rangers prevented it from happening.
The Coyotes will continue to be the story of the postseason, using Dave Tippett's system and Mike Smith's swagger between the pipes to eliminate the Kings in six.
Jonathan Quick will be tested by Phoenix's underrated offense (2.64 GFA), and the Kings' power play problems will haunt them vs. the Coyotes. Watch out for Radim Vrbata, who had five goals in six games vs. the Kings.
The Kings have been outstanding, no question. They've also had the benefit of playing two teams hit with significant injuries — Daniel Sedin, Alex Pietrangelo — at the wrong time. If the Coyotes can avoid the same misfortune, they advance to the Cup Final.
Devils vs. Coyotes for the Stanley Cup. Yes, I may be picking this just to hear the collective heads of television executives, the NHL and the hockey media explode. Also because at this point, there's really no salvaging my prognostication record for 2012. Might as well go all-in.
Sean Leahy, Associate Editor
Rangers in 7
Coyotes in 7
It's going to come down to home-ice advantage in both of these series. While the statistics may say that doesn't exist, the ability for John Tortorella and Dave Tippett to get that final change will end up being huge. That and the energy the crowds at MSG and Jobing.com Arena will provide.
Both series will be tight as shown by the goaltending that's helped get them to this point. In the end, the Rangers and Coyotes will get that one extra big goal they need to advance. New York seems destined to reach the final this year given all the similarities to their run in 1994, while Phoenix's off-ice storyline of their future just has the feeling it'll end with a trip to the Final.
Harrison Mooney, Associate Editor
Rangers in 6
Kings in 6
After seeing what LA did to the Blues, a similarly structured team to the Coyotes, I don't see how you could favour Phoenix here. The Blues played a system that flatters their goaltender, and the Kings still made Brian Elliott look like last year's Brian Elliott. That doesn't bode well for Mike Smith, who has a similarly dark past, and whose name will come up a lot, since the Coyotes are giving up a ton of shots and the Kings are spending a ton of time in their opponents' end. He'll be amazing, but I think the Kings will wear him out eventually.
I'm not sold on the Devils. The Panthers were a beatable team, and while the Flyers looked downright unstoppable at times versus Pittsburgh, they looked disjointed and unorganized against a team with more structure and commitment to defence. As far as I'm concerned, the Rangers are in a class completely above the Devils' first two opponents, and New Jersey won't look nearly as spiffy against them.
Dmitry Chesnokov, Senior Writer
Rangers in 7
Kings in 6
Did the series against the Washington Capitals take too much out of the Rangers? Or is it deja vu that most of the Eastern Conference Finals games are schedules on exactly the same days of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals? The Rangers won it that year, their last Stanley Cup. I'm going with the deja vu.
The Predators couldn't solve the Coyotes. Don't get me wrong, the Coyotes are a terrific team. But it feels that the Predators were burned out by their win against Detroit. The Kings can match the Coyotes in net with Quick (many of us picked him in our Top 3 in the Hart ballot). And it feels the Kings can dig up those goals Chicago and Nashville couldn't.
Ryan Lambert, Columnist
Rangers in 6
Kings in 7
As much as I would prefer to see the Devils advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, I just don't think they have the ability to do so. Beating Florida and Philly is all well and good, but those teams, in the end, weren't very good. New York is very, very good. If, at the end of the day, it comes down to a battle at any position, don't you think the Rangers are the superior team? They have more firepower, a better D corps (by virtue of not having Marek Zidlicky), and obviously better goaltending.
New Jersey has been fairly accustomed to playing fast, wide-open hockey, and they won't get it for a second against New York.
Out West, I think it comes down to goaltending, as it so often does. And while Mike Smith is very, very good, Jonathan Quick is perhaps the best person at his job on the entire planet. I love both of these teams, but right now the Kings are just playing better hockey against better teams. Yeah, those teams have had key players injured, and Phoenix does not, but LA looks very much like a team of destiny, one that didn't get the benefit of playing against a banged-up Blackhawks and completely discombobulated Predators team.
Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, Fantasy Hockey Columnist
Rangers in 7
Kings in 6
After carefully looking over each roster and reviewing recent game footage, I confidently present to you my prediction. Actually, the true prognosticator is this quarter I'm holding - heads pick the higher seed, tails the lower seed... and then heads pick seven games, tails six.
It's ironic that the legendary goaltender, the soon-to-be Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, has been the weakest of the four remaining goaltenders. For that reason alone, I'm going with the Rangers. But that theory doesn't work so well in the West. Trying to choose the hotter goaltender between Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith is akin to choosing the bigger partier between Jeff Carter and Mike Richards - there is no wrong answer. So in this circumstance I will go with the team with the better options up front.Kent Wilson, Advanced Stats Guru
Devils in 7
Coyotes in 6
At this point I have little confidence in my ability to pick a winner this year. So while I think the Kings are the best team remaining in the playoffs, I'm going to pick the New Jersey Devils and Phoenix Coyotes to win the Cup instead. Like George Costanza, I figure it's time to go the opposite way of my natural inclinations this post-season.
Jeff Marek, Marek vs. Wyshynski
Kings in 6
Rangers in 6
Like many series in the playoff the Kings/Coyotes may simply come down to goaltending and then really it's a pick 'em. Phoenix has perhaps the most underrated defence in the league; something that will has changed this post season with Oliver Ekman-Larsson becoming a household name for puckheads. And despite solid play from Doughty, Martinez, Voyonov, Mitchell, Scuderi and Green, I still like what Phoenix's blueline brings (to say nothing of their zip lock tight system in their own end).
Los Angeles, however, has a more talented crew up front able to play defensively sound but also score big goals and in bunches too. All the big names have shown up and that's scary to face. The Kings forwards went 'Christmas tree' on Vancouver and St Louis goalies so this will be Mike Smiths biggest challenge yet. The Kings however are not a fast team, they don't have great foot speed (I can't believe how many times I read in these playoffs about how this team is speedy), but what they do is move the puck quickly and efficiently. If Phoenix can exploit LA's slow boots they have a shot but the added rest LA has enjoyed should tip the rink in their direction.
As much as it would be a great story to see Marty Brodeur in the SC final (to say nothing of David Clarkson, Zach Parise, Adam Henrique and yes Ilya Kovalchuk) I'm not getting that 'soap and warm water feeling' about it. Granted, the Devils are rested while the Rangers have to jump back into the fire two nights after punting the Caps. The Rangers have played heavy hockey since Joe Thornton called them a soft team after a SJ Halloween loss at MSG. It was after that match that John Tortorella got the whip out and has been beating this team ever since. That has to catch up to a team eventually right? And we did see evidence of this in the Caps series. However, and this may sound too simple but I really believe it — I don't think Brad Richards, not John Tortorella, will let this team lose. I could blah blah blah about the goaltending, shot blocking, clutch goal scoring, shot + pass lane closing advantage the Rangers should enjoy in this series but at the end of it, doesn't it seem like Richards is on a seek-and-destroy mission these playoffs? I know I feel that way.
So yes, I'm picking a Kings/Rangers finals and considering how button down both teams play it may be another series of 2-1 games. Hey, kinda like the last Stanley Cup final before the last lockout with Calgary and Tampa Bay.
And who were the two coaches in that series again?
Elena Pagliarello, Marek Vs. Wyshynski
Rangers in 6
Coyotes in 6
This has been my prediction for the Rangers in each round so far, so why not stick with it?
As much as I'd like to think the Devils could keep up whatever momentum or confidence they gained in knocking off Philly, I have to stick by my original statement that the Rangers are the team that can best get it together and keep it together for a long playoff run. Brad Richards seems to be playing better with every game, and getting Brian Boyle back to solidify that attack can only help. Lundqvist has been anywhere from solid to unbelievable throughout the series with Washington, and there's no reason to think he can't continue that performance against the Devils.
Make no mistake, I think New Jersey will give New York a run for their money, but when it comes down to it the Rangers will have gained confidence from being so tested by Ottawa and Washington and I don't know what you gain from beating the Flyers other than a true appreciation for your goaltender, no matter how old and unpredictable he might be.
Well, I did not see this West Final coming. In fact, I was about as wrong as possible - something about how since LA's offense hadn't shown up so far, and that there was no reason to think goals would magically come against Nashville for Phoenix- about both these teams, so I have no clue how this will go.
I still don't really know what "Phoenix Coyotes Hockey" is, but the Coyotes are playing the hell out of it right now. As much as with my cynical nature I don't want to buy in to the whole team of destiny idea about Phoenix, I can't help but be pulling for Shane Doan, Mike Smith and the 14 Blue Jackets castoffs that have found their way to the desert.
On the other hand, the Kings must be doing something right to have knocked off both the Blues and Canucks - even if that "something right" is getting incredibly lucky and benefitting from the other team's misfortunes (injuries, Brian Elliott being Brian Elliott, etc.). Both these teams had fast series and have been waiting to play again, and you do have to wonder what kind of impact that will have. Bottom line, this will be a fascinating series to watch unfold with the coaches, scorers and goalies.
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