As we are through the first two games of each conference final, some story lines are starting to become clear. While it was predicted in this space that both series would be lengthy, it appears that one series may be over before it really started while the other one has the feel of a series set to go the distance. Let’s take a look at the how both series have evolved to this point.
In the west, through the first two games, it is very apparent who the better team has been. The Los Angeles Kings went into Phoenix and basically did whatever they wanted against their Pacific division rivals. The Kings have been amazingly dominant on the road, and in this series, that theme continued as Los Angeles heads home to Staples Center with a 2-0 series lead. As one watched the first two games, they began to wonder if Phoenix had an answer for anything the Kings were doing, but most importantly, Phoenix has had no answer for the Kings fore-check.
The Coyotes have not done themselves any favors either, especially in game two. Already down a game in the series, Coyotes captain Shane Doan took a major penalty for boarding when he hit Trevor Lewis from behind with just under five minutes left in the second period. It didn’t get any easier for the Coyotes when former Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mike Smith took a slashing penalty. That call was not as costly due to a bad diving call to even things up.
Things didn’t get any better for the home team in the third as alternate captain Martin Hanzil got shown the door for a boarding penalty. That was particularly costly as Hanzil will miss game three with a one game suspension.
The Coyotes are in a particularly bad spot heading into Staples Center for games three and four. It appears Los Angeles is in their heads, and more specifically, in Mike Smiths head. At times it has seemed his main concern has been getting a piece of whatever King is close to his crease as opposed to stopping pucks. This has to change in a hurry if Phoenix is going to climb back into the series.
Everyone knew going into this series that nothing would come easy, and that is exactly how the Eastern Conference Final is starting to shape up after the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils split the first two games of the series at Madison Square Garden.
Between complaints about shot blocking, alleged suggestions of shooting pucks at heads, and a penalty box door that refused to open or close mid game, we already have had more craziness in this series than any other in the postseason.
The Rangers took game one with ease at the strength of Henrik Lundqvist and their shot blocking to win 3-0. Game two saw the Devils push back, as they were the better team throughout. These are the types of ebbs and flows that are to be expected in a series like this. When one team pushes, the other team pushes back.
Everything in this series will be earned, and that is what makes this exciting. Not to mention the off the ice comedy of the John Tortorella press conferences, which are always good for a laugh or two.
Looking ahead to game three, one would think it’s the Rangers turn to be the team to push back as the series shifts back to Newark. Obviously, game three in this series is a big one, and with both teams proving already they prepared to leave everything on the ice, it should make for an interesting 60 minutes of hockey.