Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012: Updated Power Rankings for Remaining Teams
We've reached the midway point of each of the 2012 NHL conference finals, and all four teams are becoming more and more entrenched in their own hockey identities.
Outside of the Kings' fairly nascent offensive explosion, defense and goaltending rules the day, as is expected of any team in cup contention.
But who's executing that system best as we approach the finish line?
Here are updated power rankings and grades for the hockey's final four.
No. 4: Phoenix Coyotes
Overall Grade: B-
The Coyotes looked like themselves in their Game 4 win yesterday, extending the series, but the first three games saw a lack of offense and a defense that was not steady in front of Mike Smith.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, their biggest offensive stars from the regular season, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, have been conspicuously absent in the team's biggest playoff series in franchise history.
All things considered, that makes Phoenix the fourth-best team left in the playoffs.
No. 3: New Jersey Devils
Overall Grade: B
First of all, let me make one thing very clear: The New Jersey Devils were not expected to reach this point in the playoffs, so, in some sense, they are playing with house money. With that being said, they haven't played as well against the Rangers as they did against the Flyers, having brushed Philly aside in a tidy five games.
The Devils' offense has gone missing, just like the Coyotes', but the Rangers' style of play and Henrik Lundqvist have a lot to do with that.
Down 2-1 in the series, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk must find their game if a fourth Stanley Cup is to be won by the Devils.
No. 2: New York Rangers
Overall Grade: A-
I'm sure many people across the country, in addition to our friends north of the border, are scratching their heads, still wondering how and why the Rangers have gotten to this point in the season.
Well, it's quite simple.
Their style of play isn't sexy, but it's incredibly effective. They played defensive-minded hockey all season, were responsible in their own end and received timely scoring to finish off teams.
That's exactly what they've done against the Devils.
Oh, and they have a guy named Henrik Lundqvist between the poles. Not a bad backup plan in case all else fails.
Barring a major setback, New York should start getting ready to host some finals games.
No. 1: Los Angeles Kings
Overall Grade: A
Despite a minor hiccup in Game 4 against the Coyotes, the Kings are on an absolute roll. Jonathan Quick is playing as well as, if not better than he did all season, and has been the best goaltender in the playoffs.
In front of him, the big stars are finally showing their worth.
Led by Dustin Brown, the likes of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are earning their contracts and producing major numbers. And, they are playing good two-way hockey, keeping a defensive posture at the same time.
They entered as an eight-seed, but look more like the No. 1 overall seed right now. Get ready for Hollywood to hit Broadway in a fairy tale Los Angeles vs. New York Stanley Cup Final.