Time to take a look back at the Conference Finals predictions from The View and look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals. Here we go:
KINGS vs COYOTES
MY PICK: KINGS IN 6
OUTCOME: KINGS IN 5
The Kings completed their masterful role through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a stunning 10-2 record. Look up the cliched phrase "a team peaking at the right time" and you will find a picture of this year's L.A. Kings. However, they are not peaking at the right time. They are continuing to play solid hockey with stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick, solid defense, and now their scoring has caught up. This is a deadly combination for the teams that have faced the Kings. The Coyotes were the latest victim to run into the regal buzz saw. Phoenix found themselves down 2-0 after the first two games on home ice and looked like a team that was completely mesmerized and dominated by the skill of the Kings. The play of Mike Smith in net for the Coyotes was solid, but he was often hung out to dry by the skaters in front of him, and L.A. was relentless in attacking the net. By contrast, the Coyotes managed to put together one complete game to stave off elimination, but the reality was that it was just a matter of time before the aggressive forecheck by the Kings and the unyielding defense eliminated any offensive challenge the Coyotes could mount. Oh yeah, it didn't hurt the Kings effort by getting into the heads of the Coyotes with their physical play and their pressure on Smith in the net.
RANGERS vs DEVILS
MY PICK: RANGERS IN 7
OUTCOME: DEVILS IN 6
Looking at this series, I thought the Rangers had more depth and talent than the Devils. I certainly thought that Henrik Lundqvist was better in net than Marty Brodeur, a Hall of Fame goalie that was past his prime. Uh-uh. The Devils talent proved to be as good as what the Rangers put on the ice, and throughout the series outworked the Rangers on both ends of the ice. And about that past his prime netminder for the Devils? Marty Brodeur showed that there is certainly gas in the tank as he battled and stymied the Rangers forwards for much of the series.The thing that struck me about this series was that the Devils just seemed to have more fight in them and they refused to give in to the Rangers. Now make no mistake that the Devils have talent, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise come to mind, but every player in the line up elevated their game. Bryce Salvador?? Who would have thought that he would be scoring critical goals in this run to the Finals? This team, much like the Kings, seems to have not only the attitude to win the Cup, but certainly the ability as well.
So... now on to the Stanley Cup Finals and a matchup between two teams that have a surprisingly similar make up and style of play. So what will determine who wins the Cup?
Start with the goaltenders. There is now doubting the excellence of both netminders, and the series may well be decided by which can withstand the pressure of the the finals and the offense that their opponent will bring. Certainly, the experience that Marty Brodeur brings into the Finals will serve him well, and playing for a Cup late in his career will cause him to elevate his game. Jonathan Quick gets his first trip to the Finals, and with that comes a certain amount of pressure. I think Quick handles it and it will not be an issue for him. The edge goes to Quick for athleticism and the fact that he has been an absolute wall up to this point.
The battle between the forwards of the Devils and the defense of the Kings is going to be the critical variable in this series. The Devils forwards have been relentless; the Kings defense unyielding. If the Devils can establish their offensive presence, they have the talent to really challenge Quick and can make his life miserable. It will be up to the Kings to contain the four lines that the Devils role and not let them get the momentum and confidence in this series.
The offensive edge in this series goes to the Kings. Not that they are necessarily more talented than the Devils up front, but that the Devils defense is not as talented as the Kings blue liners. I think as the series goes along, the Kings will put a lot of pressure on the Devils D and eventually wear them out. This means that Marty Brodeur will once again have to play exceptionally well in net, and the firepower of the Kings will present a huge challenge to him and his mates.
These are two teams that have many similarities and will take each other to the wall in this series. In the end, the talent of the Kings will be just enough to carry them past the Devils.
MY PICK: KINGS IN 6