If you missed it late yesterday, the NHL released the full schedule:
Game 1 – Today, 5pm PST at Phoenix — NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 2 – Tuesday, May 15, 6pm PST at Phoenix — NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 3 – Thursday, May 17, 6pm PST at Los Angeles – NBC Sports Network, TSN
Game 4 – Sunday, May 20, noon PST at Los Angeles — NBC, CBC
Game 5 – Tuesday, May 22, 6pm PST at Phoenix – NBC Sports Network, CBC
Game 6 – Thursday, May 24, 6pm PST at Los Angeles – NBC Sports Network, CBC
Game 7 – Saturday, May 26, 5pm PST at Phoenix – TBD, CBC
Now for the fun stuff…
First, a poll – who do you think wins this series and in how many games? Then, our traditional First Goal Contest – where you can win an autographed puck from a member of the Kings. And finally, the MayorsManor overview and prediction.
So, which team do you think wins this series and when?
Tonight’s First Goal Contest
If you’d like to win a Dustin Brown autographed puck, simply leave a comment below with the Kings player you think will score the first goal for LA tonight vs. the Coyotes. Don’t worry if another reader picks ‘your player’ before you do, multiple people can pick the same guy. We’ll pool all correct entries together and randomly pull one winner. When selecting your player though, please keep in mind the Kings are expected to go with the same line-up used for the last few games. Thus, guys like Kyle Clifford, Kevin Westgarth and Davis Drewiske will be healthy scratches.
And what about a prediction, you ask?
Here goes – this series has all the makings of being a true classic, ala the 1993 Campbell Conference Finals between the Kings and Maple Leafs. Some might not see goalie Mike Smith at the same level as Jonathan Quick, yet don’t fall into that trap. The magic ride for Smith doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit. In fact, in the last round, he outdueled Pekka Rinne – the man many feel is one of the three best goalies in the Western Conference. So, Smith is up for the challenge. He’s a tall guy too, which can cause opposing teams fits.
Offensively, the Kings have the bigger names. However, the Coyotes do just fine with their patchwork offense – and feature several Kings Killers, like Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata (who had 7 points in five games vs the Kings this season, including five goals). Secondary scoring is always a hot topic in the playoffs too and teams need to get ‘unexpected’ goals to go on a long run. Last round, the Kings picked up markers from Jordan Nolan (as predicted by Luc Robitaille on the MayorsManor LIVE show) and Dwight King. In round one it was Trevor Lewis finding the back of the net. If the pattern holds true, expect a goal from Colin Fraser this time around.
Behind the bench, coach Darryl Sutter has been a major difference maker for the Kings in the first two rounds. He’s found the perfect balance between motivating and holding his players accountable. He’s also brought a sense of calm and confidence that has worked well up and down the line-up. Here, he’ll face Dave Tippett, one of the game’s best coaches at in-game adjustments. Where other teams have been frustrated when their approach hasn’t worked against the Kings, don’t expect Phoenix to wilt under the pressure. They’ll ride out the period and reemerge looking like a completely different team after intermission.
Overall, this is most likely going to be a long series. It’s going to take the full seven games and we’ll probably even see two games go into overtime – which is something the Kings will need to avoid because the Coyotes have been strong in the extra periods so far this post-season. While every game in the series may be decided by just one goal, they won’t all be low scoring games (i.e. 1-0 or 2-1). You can expect a few 4-3 and even a 5-4 game along the way. It’s going to be a wild ride.
When the smoke clears, expect the Kings to come out on top in seven games. Yes, these two teams are very similar in many ways. However, the Kings have one of the best collective groups of six defensemen in the National Hockey League. That will be the difference in the series.
Remember to submit your guess for tonight’s First Goal Contest. Good luck and enjoy game one!
We’ll be in Phoenix for the next few days, providing live notes and quotes from the games, practices and pre-game skates. Be sure to follow along on twitter for tons of notes and quotes you won’t find anywhere else.