You've probably ripped up your NHL playoff bracket at this point, because like everyone else, you didn't predict the highly unlikely and certainly unforeseeable Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings Western Conference Finals matchup.
But here we stand, on the verge of such a matchup between Pacific Division foes, who, not so long ago, were battling against one another at the end of the regular season just to make the playoffs.
That battle seems insignificant, even minuscule, compared to what lies in store for this pair of postseason upstarts over the next two weeks.
The series features a lot of firsts, not surprising considering the relative postseason ineptitude exhibited by both the Kings and Coyotes in recent history.
Here are a few interesting news and notes as the hockey world prepares for the 2012 Western Conference Finals:
- This represents the first-ever playoff meeting between the Kings and Coyotes franchises
- It's also the first time two Pacific Division teams will meet in the conference final
- For the Kings, it's their first Conference Final since 1993, when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs en route to the Stanley Cup
- Phoenix is making its first conference finals appearance ever. Previously, the Winnipeg Jets had never made it that far in the postseason either.
- Also of note, the Coyotes also notched the franchise's first playoff victory of any kind since 1987 when they defeated Chicago Blackhawks in the quarterfinals.
- For the two coaches, not firsts here. Dave Tippett, head man of the Coyotes, is making his second trip to the WCF, the last time coming in a loss as the coach of the Dallas Stars. For Darryl Sutter, it's his third trip to a conference finals. In 1995, his Blackhawks lost, while in 2004, the Flames won, then lost to the Lightning in the Cup.
A look at the two goalies:
- Mike Smith: 8W-3L, 1.77 GAA, .948 save percentage, two shutouts in the playoffs
- Jonathan Quick: 8W-1L, 1.55 GAA, .949 save percentage, one shutout in the playoffs
- Coyotes: 2.64 G/G, 1.91 GA/G, 16.1 PP%, 89.5 PK%, 26.8 S/G
- Kings: 3.00 G/G, 1.56 GA/G, 8.5 PP%, 92.1 PK%, 28.6 S/G
It's up to you. Who will win this series? Leave a comment below.
Ryan O'Leary is a writer and researcher for Bleacher Report's Video Production Department with seven years of experience in sports media.