Western Conference Finals Preview Part 2
Sunday night is fast approaching! Within 48 hours, the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes will square off in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
This series will be a battle of great goaltending, stingy defense and timely offense. While both clubs are known for, or at least appear to have a defensive identity, they also have in common the fact that they can role out all 4 lines during the game. Most teams don’t have this luxury. The fact that a coach can run all 4 lines with confidence is absolutely huge. Look at the Kings for instance. While Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson won’t wow you with an offensive explosion, they can all effectively play their role of grinding and cycling. Having this depth is huge and cannot be overlooked as one of the key reasons why both these clubs have made it this far.
When you analyze the top 6 forwards on both these clubs, you will find more discrepancy. If they are on top of their game, on paper the Kings top 2 lines can match up with almost anyone in the entire NHL. So far in these playoffs they have been close to that. If Jeff Carter picks it up and the rest of the group maintains their current level of play, this group will be a handful to contain. You also add to the fact that Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards are two of the best defensive centers in the league, making this team an absolute pain to play against.
While the Coyotes may not have the top end forward talent of the Kings, they do also possess some great defensive centers of their own, in Martin Hanzal and Boyd Gordon. Also if Radim Vrbata can get going, (he usually lights the lamp at will against the Kings) that will be a huge boost to the Coyotes on the offensive side of things. Antoine Vermette has been an outstanding addition for the club and is currently leading the Coyotes in playoff points with 9. If he can continue at this pace, and the fact that you add in veterans Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, as well as youngster and overtime hero Mikkel Boedker, you have a top end forward group with a nice mix of speed, skill and physical ability, that may not be an exciting time of match up for the Kings strong defensive corps.
We’ll take a closer look at some key players for each team heading into this series over the next few days!