NHL Western Conference Final: Preview and Prediction

NHL Western Conference Final: Preview and Prediction

NHL Western Conference Final: Preview and Prediction
By Dustin Nielson

No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Kings

Series prices: Los Angeles -175, Phoenix +130

It’s not a coincidence that the last two teams standing in the Western Conference are the clubs that had the two best goaltenders during the regular season.

Statistically speaking, there is really no difference between Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick.  Quick is the owner of a .949 save percentage in the playoffs while Smith isn’t far behind, sitting at .948. Both goalies are on a record-setting pace.

Smith has been the busier of the two netminders, facing an average of 36 shots per outing. Quick, thanks in large part to a water-tight defense in front of him, has had to stop only 28 shots a night.

With neither team really having an advantage between the pipes, you really have to break down the rest of the lineups to find an edge.

After averaging 2.29 goals per game during the regular season, the Kings have increased that number to a surprising 3.00 goals in the postseason. The addition of Jeff Carter turned the Kings offense around late in the season, but it’s the captain Dustin Brown who has been the biggest difference maker in the playoffs. Brown has been Mr. Everything for the Kings and, while he’s not known for his offensive game, he leads the team with 11 points in nine games.

The Coyotes have done a great job scoring by committee but they lack the game-breaker they will need in key moments against Darryl Sutter’s defense. The one area where the Coyotes do have an advantage is on special teams, or more specifically the power play. Phoenix’s power play is firing at 16.1 percent while the Kings have struggled with the man advantage, scoring on less than nine percent of their chances.

The season series between the two teams had a little bit of everything.  Quick had a couple of shutouts, Smith had one of his own and the teams even had a wild 5-4 finish in one of their six head-to-head meetings.

Smith is certainly capable of out dueling Quick in two or three games but doesn’t have the offensive weapons in front of him to win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup final.

Season Series: Phoenix (2-2-2), Los Angeles (3-1-2)

Series Prediction: Kings in six games

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