NHL Playoffs 2012: Keys to the Conference Finals
Just one series away from a Stanley Cup berth, the remaining NHL playoff teams each have a few areas in which they must execute.
The Los Angeles Kings have to continue their offensive onslaught.
The Phoenix Coyotes must find a way to stop that firepower.
The New York Rangers have to get off to quick starts.
The New Jersey Devils must kill the penalty.
The keys to each series will determine who lands four wins away from lofting Lord Stanley's goblet.
Kings vs. Coyotes
The most important aspect of this series is goaltending.
Both goalies carried their respective teams to the Western Conference finals.
This postseason, Jonathan Quick of the Kings was No. 2 in save percentage, followed at No. 3 by Mike Smith of the Coyotes.
Quick allowed just six goals in the sweep of the St. Louis Blues. The Vezina Trophy finalist has the best goals against average of any goalie who's minded the net more than three games this postseason.
Smith had his most exceptional stretch at the end of the regular season, allowing just two goals in five games. He then stayed sturdy, winning three of five overtime games to start the playoffs, but has since faded a bit.
Whichever goalie can quell the other team will win the series. As of now, it seems as though the Kings have the upper hand offensively.
Leading the charge is Jeff Carter, who the Kings acquired in February, thinking he'd gel with former teammate Mike Richards.
However, there were questions coming in to the playoffs whether Carter would be fully ready to play.
After he only tallied just one goal in the first 10 postseason games, Carter exploded for a hat trick in the 4-0 drubbing of Phoenix in Game 2.
If Carter stays hot, the Coyotes don't stand a chance.
Rangers vs. Devils
Scoring first is essential for the Rangers.
In the 3-2 loss to New Jersey in Game 2, New York allowed the first goal on a first period power play.
During the season, the Rangers had the third-best record in the NHL when scoring first.
For the Devils, special teams means everything.
Game 1 saw them go scoreless on four power plays in a 3-0 loss. In Game 2, they tallied one goal on three attempts, but allowed two by the Rangers.
New Jersey's penalty kill was tops in the league this season, so the Devils can't let that happen again.
The power play champ for New York has been rookie Chris Kreider. Both of his goals in the series have come on the man advantage.
Coming off an NCAA national championship win with Boston College earlier this year, Kreider has provided an offensive spark for the sometimes stagnant Rangers.
The way New Jersey can combat that offense is with masterful play by goalie Martin Brodeur.
The former Stanley Cup winner stymied the stellar Philadelphia Flyers offense in the semifinals, and if the veteran stands on his head, the Devils have a decent chance of upsetting the Rangers.
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