So much for favorites in the 2012 NHL playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes, set to square off in the Western Conference finals, have exploded in the postseason, becoming legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. The Kings are the eighth seed in the West. The Coyotes had the third-fewest points in the conference headed into the playoffs.
The Coyotes have gotten to where they are now by beating the Chicago Blackhawks in six games and defeating the heavily-favored Nashville Predators in five games. The series victory against the Blackhawks could have been predicted after the red-hot Coyotes won their last five games of the regular season.
Beating the Predators, however, was a complete surprise, and they did so in convincing fashion.
The Kings, on the other hand, weren't even supposed to be in the picture. They went 5-2-3 in their final 10 regular-season games and scored the fewest points in the West. Yet, they ran through the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues en route to the conference finals. They swept the Blues, who some had winning the whole thing.
It all adds up to what is sure to be a thrilling, yet completely unpredictable series matchup between the Coyotes and Kings. This may not be the Predators-Blues matchup we all were dreaming of, but the Coyotes and Kings have earned every bit of their success in the playoffs, and they are simply playing like title contenders right now, regardless of what they did or didn't do in the regular season.
The Kings are simply playing like a complete team, benefiting from numerous contributions across the board. It doesn't hurt that Jonathan Quick is their goaltender, either.
The Coyotes have played a grind-it-out, counter-punching style that is sure to make the Western Conference finals exciting. They are led by goaltender Mike Smith, who has now extended his shutout streak to 164 minutes, 45 seconds, the longest postseason streak in the history of the Phoenix-Winnipeg franchise.
One thing's for sure: Whoever advances to the Stanley Cup Finals out of the West will have earned it.
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