Everything has been settled in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Kings will face off against the Phoenix Coyotes to decide the finalist from the west. Needless to say, the emergence of those two teams was not exactly expected.
A couple of weeks before the regular season ended, neither of those teams was seriously entertaining post season play! It does say a thing or two about parity in the National Hockey League. Granted, goalies for both teams have playe
d a significant role thus far.
That is an understatement. Mike Smith from the Coyotes and Jonathan Quick from the Kings have stood on their proverbial masks to keep pucks out of their goals. Both have played brilliantly, sometimes under difficult circumstances. They are screened, they are slashed and kicked and run over by opposing players. And yet they somehow get themselves into position to keep the biscuit out of the basket. The Nashville Predators will go to sleep for the next couple of weeks envisioning Smith on his knees, at the edge of his crease, cradling another shot from the blue line and stopping the play.
All of the television sets in the Smith and Kristalyn homes in our area will be tuned to the final games. Smith’s parents attended Prince Edward Collegiate, then escaped the County to Verona. According to Hoyle, that does make him a local boy, but does not give Mike sufficient accreditation to qualify as the first County born and raised resident to play in the NHL.
On the Belleville side of the Bay of Quinte, all eyes will focus on Brad Richardson. Brad survived an appendicitis operation a couple of weeks ago, and is now going full tilt for the Kings. A graduate of the Quinte hockey system, as well as the Belleville Minor Football League, Brad has played well for the Kings all year. Management does not expect him to fill the net every night. But he plays his position well, and has earned a berth in the semi finals, along with his team mates.
Keep an eye on the Kings’ Anze Kopitar. He has emerged as a brilliant playmaker and scoring threat. He is a large power forward, but also possesses brilliantly soft hands. The puck follows him around the rink, and he knows what to do with it when it arrives. The Kings also have a defenceman well worth the watching, namely Drew Doughty.
Nothing has been decided in the Ranger-Capitals series. It has been a war, and the Caps let a critical game slip through their fingers on Monday night. They allowed the Blueshirts to score and tie the game with six seconds remaining, in one of those mad scrambles at the side of the net. One of those Staal brothers from Thunder Bay potted the winner in overtime.
The New Jersey Devils are in the driver’s seat in the other Eastern Conference series. Again, goaltending has made a difference, as forty year old Martin Brodeur has kept the Philadelphia Flyers at bay, for the most part. Brodeur will saunter into the Hall of Fame at the end of his career, as one of the all time greats. Former Belleville Bull David Clarkson has just completed the best season of his career for the Devils, and is enjoying a great playoff run.
Great hockey in early May.