The Los Angeles Kings look unstoppable and the Phoenix Coyotes look like they’ve finally hit the end of the line, as the Kings took their second straight win in the desert, grabbing a 4-0 win in Game 2 of last night’s NHL Western Conference Finals.
Dwight King, a key part of the Game 1 win, made his mark on Game 2 quickly, with a goal off a feed from defenseman Drew Doughty. It was part of a period where Los Angeles hammered Phoenix goalie Mike Smith with 15 shots. In the second period the mismatch got worse. LA center Jeff Carter scored twice, the first time off a combined assist from Dustin Penner and Mike Richards and then on the power play from Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. This too, was part of a period where the Kings pummeled Smith, hitting him with 17 shots. Smith didn’t have his best game, but there’s no way a team is going to compete at this level of the playoffs with the goalie is consistently exposed as the Phoenix defense allows. The scoring ended in the third period when Carter completed his hat trick, with another power play goal, fed by Dustin Brown and Kopitar. Los Angeles settled for eight shots in this period, although it’s safe to say everything was oriented to defense by that point.
What’s impressive is not just that Kings are dominating play so thoroughly, but throughout this postseason run they consistently get their production from the same players, and that group is broad enough to not be one-dimensional. Carter isn’t normally this big a part of the offense—well, since he had a hat trick last night, I guess that much is obvious, but you get the general point. But players like Kopitar, Brown, Penner and Doughty have been a part of the attack, either scoring or passing. More than any other team, Los Angeles has an offensive rhythm it can count on.
Phoenix can count on their offensive rhythm as well—count on it not to show up. Phoenix only got 24 shots on goal—which isn’t horrible, but nowhere near the volume they need to beat LA goalie Jonathan Quick. And more important, those aren’t quality shots. Three players were able to get four looks at the goal and two of the players in question were defensemen. Phoenix isn’t getting its best players in position to score, and while you can never write anything off to quickly, I defy anyone to come up with a single good reason why the Coyotes can win four of the next five and take the series. Heck, just come up with a good reason they’ll win two games (I won’t say one, because Smith could get them a W by himself at least once).
While Los Angeles dominates, the New York Rangers hope to win their second straight when the Eastern Conference Finals resumes tonight with Game 2 against the New Jersey Devils. I think New Jersey did a lot of what they needed to do to win in the opener, even if the third period went against them. But ultimately they need a little help. The Devils need Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist to have one of those games where he’s just a bit off—and they seem to happen at least every third game or so—and then NJ needs to lock down on Marian Gaborik and keep him off the puck.