“The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”: The Stanley Cup Playoffs
ABC’s Wide World of Sports that ran from 1961 to 1998 opened the program by using the popular phrase – “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat”. Although this popular TV show is no longer on the air, the popular phrase still rings true for fans, athletes, coaches and the entire personnel of any sports organization.
It also runs deeper. Entire Cities, States and certain regions of an entire country will start taking sides especially when teams start to get eliminated from the playoffs and all that is remaining are two teams. Sides will be drawn, predictions will be made and emotions will start their roller coaster ride to the heights of ecstasy to the depths of utter despair. For the National Hockey League Western Conference finals between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings, the stage is set to produce these highs and lows not in just one game or one series, but moment to moment of each game as the outcome for an entire season rests on every shift and every play. There is no tomorrow. There is only now and up or now and out.
This promises to be a great series for the fans which starts this Sunday. Two unlikely teams will be competing to have the right to play for the Stanley Cup. These two teams are not only in the same division, they play a similar defensive style, with one team (Kings) having made it to the 3rd round only once in their 45 year history (lost in the Stanley Cup Finals) and the Coyotes never making it past the first round since relocating to Phoenix in 1996.
Although there are many keys to this game, focusing on the following three areas will help breakdown the game into understandable segments:
Goaltending, Defensemen and forwards.
Jonathan Quick, goaltender for the LA Kings is my pick to win the vezina trophy for best goalie in the league with his consistent and outstanding performances in the regular season. Quick has continued his outstanding regular season play into the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Quick has a goals against average of 1.55 and a save percentage of .949% both of which are second best in the playoffs behind Cory Schneider of Vancouver who was eliminated by the Kings in the first round.
Mike Smith for the Phoenix Coyotes had an excellence regular season and really came on exceptionally strong towards to the end of the season. Because of his strong finish, I believe he should have been one of the finalist for the Vezina trophy. However Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators came in ahead of Smith. (Only 3 candidates) However Smith got his revenge over Rinne when he shut down the Predators in 5 games in round two.
In the Playoffs, Smith has a goals against average of 1.77 which is 5th best in the playoffs and a save percentage of .948 which is 3rd best.
The goaltending match-up: Edge: Wash.
Let’s go to the next category: Defensemen
All star Keith Yandle and Rostislav Klesla lead the way in the playoffs among defensemen scoring with 7 points each. Yandle and Klesla have demonstrated strong leadership with a fierce competitive spirit. 20 year old Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues his spectacular performance from the regular season into the playoffs. Derek Morris has been excellent and provides a physical presence. The Coyotes have much needed depth on defense that few playoffs teams have.
The LA Kings led by Drew Doughty with 6 points in the playoffs, provides youth and superior talent, as well as being a potential scoring threat anytime he has the puck. The Kings also possess outstanding depth on the backend with the likes of Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene. Youngsters Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez are outstanding skaters, that can really move the puck up the ice in a hurry.
Defensemen match-up: Edge: Even
When it comes to forwards there is little doubt about the Kings firepower. With the incredible play of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and a renewed Dustin Penner, this is a team that can be explosive. Yet it has been a struggle offensively for the team in the regular season and into the playoffs. Yet, they could be a ticking time bomb .
The Coyotes have the “pack mentality” approach to everything they do including offense. Yet despite the “pack Mentality” approach, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata have had spectacular regular season performances. At age 40 Whitney seems to be getting better each year. Vrbata, broke his single season goal scoring record notching 35 goals. (24 goals was his previous high)
Shane Doan known as the best captain in hockey leads by examples with his hustle, hits, determination and grit. This style of play is contagious and motivates the entire team to play at their potential and beyond.
Center Antoine Vermette has stepped it up and leads the Coyotes in points in the playoffs with 9. Mikkel Boedker has 7 points and has been one of the Coyotes best forwards.
Martin Hanzal is the Coyotes best two way player shutting down the opponents high scoring forwards.
Forwards Match-up: Edge: Kings
Prediction: Coyotes in 7 with low scoring and several overtime games.
Emotional prediction: Each team and their fan base will experience “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat” several times a game with the series winner experiencing the ultimate high – until the Stanley Cup Finals. Then the remaining two teams left standing will board the roller coaster for the ride of their life. One will experience “The Thrill of Victory and the other will experience the Agony of Defeat”. All aboard. Drop the puck. Good luck!