Every year during the Stanley Cup run there is always one team that stands out as the team to beat. So far this year that team is the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings are poised to make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993. The biggest difference between their last run and this one, other than Wayne Gretzky, is how well they are playing.
So far this postseason the Kings have been unstoppable, and there doesn't look to be a team remaining that could, in fact, stop the Kings from raising the Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Their opponent in the Western Finals, the Phoenix Coyotes, has been a tough team for their previous opponents. They have relied on solid defensive plays and their goaltender Mike Smith, which worked well against Chicago and Nashville.
The Kings seem to have figured them out, taking advantage of the Coyotes' stay-at-home style that tries to capitalize on opponents' mistakes.
The Kings are making few mistakes and are simply outplaying the Coyotes. Unlike Chicago or Nashville, the Kings are also not finding an issue scoring on Mike Smith, who otherwise has been solid in net for Phoenix.
The Kings are looking better and better with each game, which leaves one to wonder if anyone can stop them from winning the Cup.
Phoenix is already becoming an afterthought for many fans, which leaves either the Devils or the Rangers as the only obstacle in the way. Yet it is doubtful either team will have what it takes to stop LA.
For the Devils it has been a huge team effort, with the uncertainty of Martin Brodeur's future this team seems set on winning one last Cup for him. However, the question remains if Brodeur has enough stamina left to make it to the Cup Finals.
He has played well so far, but of the goalies that remain, his stats are the worst. He has relied on his team's defensive play and offensive skill to see them through thus far.
The Devils have been playing hard, but against a red-hot Kings team they may fall short. The Kings' defense has been just as good and Quick has been the best goalie in the playoffs by far.
Unless New Jersey can dispatch the Rangers quickly to give themselves some time to rest up, they may not have enough in the tank to topple the Kings.
The New York Rangers were the top team in the East during the regular season, but they have scraped through the playoffs so far.
In the first game they were solidly outplayed by the Devils, relying heavily on Lundqvist. They did manage to get themselves back into it in the third period and win the game.
In Game 2 the Devils found a way to beat Lundqvist and hold on for the win. The Rangers were effectively shut down by New Jersey, which could mean the end for the Rangers' season.
Even if they do manage to beat the Devils, it looks as though they are going to have to once more fight tooth and nail to do so. With the Kings having a dominant presence over the Coyotes, that series could be done in four or five games.
That would mean a very tired Rangers would be facing a well-rested and extremely hot Kings. The Rangers may have a better chance if they can gain the advantage on the Devils and put them out in five games.
Unfortunately, that doesn't seem very likely.
The Kings may have stumbled and struggled all season long, grasping the final playoff berth in the closing days of the regular season. They look like a completely different team now, and have been absolutely dominant against their opponents.
So don't be surprised if when the postseason dust settles, the Kings are raising the Cup for the first time in the history of their franchise. It seems to be the likely outcome.
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