NHL Week in Review (May 6 – 12)

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The NHL playoffs have gone through another round as the Conference finals are now set with only four teams left in the hunt. So far the playoffs have been a tale of two rounds as both rounds had a distinct feel to them. In the first round it was all about the violence of the sport with fights and rough play taking focus. The second round did not see any of this as the rough play dropped off but a new style of play took over. The defences were on display in the second round as the old school hockey based in defence and a lack of offence was the focus of the second round. More than that the goaltending began showing up more and the new trend of blocking shots was seen in great numbers. In the Eastern Conference defence was on display in both series as the New Jersey Devils were able to shut down the Philadelphia Flyers. The patience of the Devils was their advantage as the Flyers continued to try to get under the skin of the Devils much like they did against the Penguins in round 1. The Devils would not fall for it though as they played their game and took advantage of the up and down goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov to get their spot in the Conference finals. Meanwhile the New York Rangers had to take their defensive crown away from the new kids on the block. The Rangers had been the best defensive team, and blocked the most shots, throughout the regular season earning them the top spot in the East. They would take on the Washington Capitals who, with the Dale Hunter at the helm, had a new attitude about defensive hockey. Both teams faced off in a defensive struggle that went seven games and saw the originators of the shot block this year take the series. Meanwhile in the west the second round went much faster and included two teams who were not expected to do anything take the wins. The Phoenix Coyotes finished in third place but many people did not think that they were good enough to move on. They surprised in the first round as they beat the Chicago Blackhawks but again were not given much of a chance in the next round. They would take on one of the second round favorites in the Nashville Predators who beat the Detroit Red Wings and became favorites to make the finals after round 1. The Coyotes would not let the expectations phase them though as they were able to dominate the Predators thanks in large part to their emerging goaltender Mike Smith who has been the best goalie in the playoffs so far. In only 5 games the Coyotes were able to get by the Predators and move into the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. The other series in the west was even more surprising as the Los Angeles Kings took on the second best team in the west the St. Louis Blues. The Kings had already eliminated the President’s Trophy winners in the first round as they beat the Vancouver Canucks and many thought that was as far as they would go as their magic would run out. The Blues had quietly advanced in the first round but had been one of the best teams all season thanks to their defensive attitude. The Kings continued to roll though as they beat the Blues faster than anyone else sweeping the #2 team in the West. Four teams are left as the Conference finals begin and everyone looks to another round to see what will happen. There has already been rough play and defensive hockey so now with the third round everyone watches to see what the next trend will be or if one of the former trends continues.

The Conference finals are here as the teams are only four wins away from making an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. In the East the theme might be defence once again as the battle of the Hudson River moves into the playoffs. The New York Rangers are the most defensive team in the playoffs with potential Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist in net and the entire team willing to block shots. Meanwhile the New Jersey Devils have one of the best goalies to ever play the game in Martin Brodeur looking for one last chance at the Cup and have a history of defensive hockey. The Devils are the more offensive of the two though as they led all teams in scoring this year and look to get back to their scoring ways against their rivals. This match up could come down to a battle of the goaltenders as the better goalie could win the series for their team despite the great defences in front of them. In the west the two surprise teams will look to take their momentum into the Stanley Cup Finals. The Phoenix Coyotes have relied on their goalie Mike Smith for the entire playoffs as they have put him in some difficult spots forcing him to make almost 40 saves a game until they finally get going in the third period. The question for them is if Smith can continue his performance against the Kings who will come after him every game. The Kings will be looking to take their newfound goal scoring touch into the conference finals and continue their unlikely story. The Kings have eliminated the top two teams and they will look to take out the third place team on their way to the finals. This series will come down to which team will falter first as they will see if the Kings can continue their Cinderella story or if Mike Smith can continue his amazing performance. The Conference Finals will have some great games as they are one step away from the finals with great hockey left to play.

 

Eastern Conference Finals:

New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

Game 1: NJD @ NYR (May 14th; 8:00 pm)

Game 2: NJD @ NYR (May 16th; 8:00 pm)

Game 3: NYR @ NJD (May 19th; 1:00 pm)

Game 4: NYR @ NJD (May 21st; 8:00 pm)

Game 5: NJD @ NYR (May 23rd; 8:00 pm)

Game 6: NYR @ NJD (May 25th; 8:00 pm)

Game 7: NJD @ NYR (May 27th; 8:00 pm)

 

Western Conference Finals:

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Los Angeles Kings

Game 1: LAK @ PHX (May 13th; 8:00 pm)

Game 2: LAK @ PHX (May 15th; 9:00 pm)

Game 3: PHX @ LAK (May 17th; 9:00 pm)

Game 4: PHX @ LAK (May 20th; 3:00 pm)

Game 5: LAK @ PHX (May 22nd; 9:00 pm)

Game 6: PHX @ LAK (May 24th; 9:00 pm)

Game 7: LAK @ PHX (May 26th; 8:00 pm)

 

Round 2

Eastern Conference:

New York Rangers 4 – 3 Washington Capitals

Game 1: NYR 3 – 1 WSH

Game 2: WSH 3 – 2 NYR

Game 3: NYR 2 – 1 WSH

Game 4: WSH 3 – 2 NYR

Game 5: NYR 3 – 2 WSH (OT)

Game 6: WSH 2 – 1 NYR

Game 7: NYR 2 – 1 WSH

 

Philadelphia Flyers 1 – 4 New Jersey Devils

Game 1: PHI 4 – 3 NJD (OT)

Game 2: NJD 4 – 1 PHI

Game 3: NJD 4 – 3 PHI

Game 4: NJD 4 – 2 PHI

Game 5: NJD 3 – 1 PHI

 

Western Confernece:

St. Louis Blues 0 – 4 Los Angeles Kings

Game 1: LAK 3 – 1 STL

Game 2: LAK 5 – 2 STL

Game 3: LAK 4 – 2 STL

Game 4: LAK 3 – 1 STL

 

Phoenix Coyotes 4 – 1 Nashville Predators

Game 1: PHX 4 – 3 NSH (OT)

Game 2: PHX 5 – 3 NSH

Game 3: NSH 2 – 0 PHX

Game 4: PHX 1 – 0 NSH

Game 5: PHX 2 – 1 NSH

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