NHL Western Conference Finals: LA Kings vs Phoenix Coyotes

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Finals
Best of Seven Series, Format 2-2-1-1-1
#8 Los Angeles Kings vs #3 Phoenix Coyotes
Game #1 Sunday, May 13, 2012, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Jobing.com Arena – Glendale, Arizona
Series Price (odds courtesy of bookmaker) Kings -160 / Coyotes +140
Game #1 Opening Money Line: Kings -120 / Coyotes +100
Game #1 Current Money Line: Kings -115 / Coyotes -105
Game #1 Opening Total: 4 1/2 over -120 / under +100
Game #1 Current Total: 4 1/2 over -120
/ under +100

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The LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes meet in the Western Conference Finals in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

When you think of the rivalry between Los Angeles and Phoenix, you might think of Lakers-Suns, Dodgers-Diamondbacks, or maybe even USC/UCLA-Arizona St. Most people don’t think of the two Western neighbors having a rivalry in ice hockey. However, both these two unlikely teams have made it to the Western Conference Finals and are just 4 wins away from going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Phoenix Coyotes won their first division title since moving from Winnipeg in the mid-90’s. The Coyotes, coached by Dave Tippett, finished with 97 points, one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks, and two points ahead of the Kings. The Coyotes beat the #6 Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the first round, and the #4 Nashville Predators in 5 games in the conference semifinals to advance to their first ever Conference Finals.

The Los Angeles Kings finished with 95 points and were the #8 seed in the West. Coach Darryl Sutter took over the Kings in December. Not much was expected of the Kings heading into the playoffs. However, LA beat the #1 seed Vancouver Canucks, who won the President’s Cup for having the league’s best regular season record. The Kings took a 3-0 series lead against the Canucks and won in 5 games. In the next round, LA swept the #2 seeded St. Louis Blues to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1993 when they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens.

As Pacific Division foes, the Kings and Coyotes are very familiar with each other. The two teams split the 6 games against each other. All games were decided by 2 goals or less. Five of the games were decided by one goal and 3 went into overtime or a shootout.   I don’t know if that means much for two reasons. One they haven’t played since February 21, and both teams are much better now. Two, Jeff Carter missed all six of those games for LA, and he is one of the best offensive players for the Kings.

LA is averaging 3 goals a game. The Kings have struggled on the power play this post season with only 4 goals on 47 chances with an 8.5% conversion rate. However, they have been sensational on the penalty kill, allowing only 3 goals in 38 tries (92.1% PK rate). More impressively, the Kings have scored 4 short handed goals during the playoffs, while not allowing any. The Kings are being outshot 30.4-28.6 during the playoffs. LA has scored 27 goals in the playoffs.

The Kings have gotten here mainly because of the play of goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick has been fantastic during the postseason with an 8-1 record, a 1.55 goals against average, and a .949 save percentage. He has one shutout during the playoffs, and has allowed 14 goals in 9 games. Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist, given to the league’s top goaltender.

Kings right winger Dustin Brown has 11 points in the postseason including 6 goals to lead LA. Center Anze Kopitar has 10 points including 7 assists to lead the team in the playoffs. Center Mike Richards has 8 points including 5 assists. Left winger Dustin Penner and RW Justin Williams both have 7 points with 5 assists. Defenseman Drew Doughty has 6 points with 5 assists. Carter and defenseman Matt Greene both have 4 points with 3 assists. Besides Brown, no other King has more than 6 goals in the playoffs, but 15 LA players have scored goals in the playoffs. RW Kevin Westgarth (hand) and LW Kyle Clifford (upper body) are both day to day. LW Scott Parse and Center Simon Gagne are both out for the season.

Phoenix is outscoring opponents 2.64-1.91 this post-season. The Coyotes have 5 power play goals in 31 opportunities for a 16.1% conversion rate. Phoenix has allowed 4 power play goals in 38 chances for an 89.5% penalty kill rate. Phoenix has no shorthanded goals, and hasn’t allowed any either. phoenix is being outshot 36.4-26.8 in the playoffs.Phoenix has scored 29 goals in the postseason.

Like LA, Phoenix has ridden a hot goaltender to the conference finals. Coyote goalie Mike Smith is 8-3 in the playoffs with a 1.77 GAA, and a .948 save percentage. He has two shutouts and has allowed 21 goals in the playoffs. The Coyotes have needed Smith as they have played 6 overtime games in 11 playoff games. The Coyotes are 4-2 in those games. Smith only allowed 3 total goals in the last 3 games against the Predators.

Coyotes’ center Antoine Vermette has 9 points with 5 goals. he leads the Coyotes in both categories during the playoffs. Defenseman Keith Yandle has 7 assists to lead the Coyotes. Defenseman Rotislav Klesla and RW Mikkel Boedker both have 7 points in the playoffs. RW Shane Doan and LW Ray Whitney both have 6 points. Centers Damian Langkow and Martin Hanzal both have 5 points. Thirteen Coyote Players have scored goals in the playoffs but five have at least 3 goals. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin is questionable for an undisclosed reason. Defenseman Raffi Torres is suspended for the rest of the post-season due to a vicious hit he put on Marion Hossa of the Blackhawks in the first round. Defenseman Kurt Sauer is out for the season with a concussion.

The home team is 42-20-6 in the series recently between the Kings and Coyotes. The Kings are 9-24-2 in Glendale recently. The over is 4-1-1 in the last six played in Glendale between the teams.

Los Angeles is 5-0 on the road in the playoffs, against teams with winning records, in Sunday games, and in road games against teams with winning home records, 4-0 on three days rest, and after a win, 4-1 as a favorite, 11-3 as a favorite of -150 or less, 16-5 after allowing 2 goals or less, 20-7 against Western Conference teams, and 20-8 overall.

Phoenix is 6-0 after scoring 2 goals or less, 4-0 after allowing 2 goals or less, and on 3 or more days rest, 6-1 as a playoff underdog, 5-1 against teams with winning records, 13-3 overall, and against Western Conference teams, 8-2 against Pacific Division teams, 7-2 at home, 9-3 after a win, and and 13-6 in Sunday games.

The Kings are probably playing the best hockey of the 4 teams that are left, especially on the road. Though both Quick and Smith have been playing great this season, Quick has been slightly better.  The Kings also have a slight advantage on offense. Both LA and Phoenix have been fantastic on the penalty kill but awful on the power play. I think each game in this series will be close, but the Kings are just too hot right now. Kings win game 1 Sunday, and win the series in 5 games.

Our NHL handicappers are red hot in the playoffs. We are releasing winners and key plays every day from now until they raise the Cup next month.



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