Stanley Cup Playoffs Bringing Intensity, Scrutiny, and Excitement

Aaron Hendel, Sports Editor

And then there were four.

Friday night, the final game was played in the second round of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, which had one of the local favorites, the one-seed New York Rangers, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. There, they will meet the other popular team amongst Westporters, the six-seed New Jersey Devils, for a chance to compete for the league championship, better known as the Stanley Cup.

Out West, the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings advanced to their conference finals, where they will take on the surging three-seed Phoenix Coyotes, who up until recently were a threat to relocate.

However, this year’s playoffs have had many other story lines, good and bad, other than just wins and losses.

Martin Brodeur, the longtime goalie of the Devils, became the first at his position in NHL history to appear in a playoff game as a teenager and at the age of 40 (or older). Marty, as he is commonly referred to, also has three assists so far in the tournament.

Along the way, the Kings have taken out the one-seed Vancouver Canucks and the two-seed St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference, once again proving that an underdog can succeed in the world of sports. And currently, the Staples Center in LA is the host to three playoff teams in two sports: the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA as well as the Kings.

For Phoenix, their strong play has been overshadowed by a particularly dark moment. In the first round, forward Raffi Torres, notorious for playing dirty, left his feet on a check while targeting the head of the Chicago Blackhawk’s Marian Hossa, resulting in a 25-game suspension that could potentially carry over into next season. This was the third largest ban in league history.

And for the Rangers, they return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1997, led by probable Vezina Trophy (the award for the best goalie during the regular season) and possible Hart Trophy (regular season MVP) and Conn Smythe Trophy (postseason MVP) winner Henrik Lundqvist, who so far this year has lived up to his nickname, “King Henrik.”

“The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist will take them,” Jake Chernok ’13 said. “And right now, he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career.”

Making the task tougher for the Rangers is American star Brandon Dubinsky’s lower body injury, which caused him to miss the entire second round against the Washington Capitals; his current status is day-to-day. Conversely, the Devils are astoundingly healthy, with Ilya Kovalchuk and Ryan Carter overcoming injuries sustained earlier in the playoffs.

“Phoenix is taking this one all the way,” Will Englehart ’14 predicted. He expects Phoenix to beat the Rangers in the finals; “Throw some of that coyote fire at those weak Rangers,” Englehart said, directed towards Phoenix’s squad.

Luke Foreman ’14 also predicted that the Coyotes would make it to the finals. However, he sees the Devils eventually being crowned champs.

“Brodeur has so much experience, and the team as a whole has been playing very well as of late,” he said.

Now, I am a Devils fan, but throwing all bias aside, I do expect them to beat the Rangers and move onto the finals.

However, I also expect the Los Angeles Kings’ Cinderella story to continue, not only against Phoenix, but against New Jersey as well. The biggest reason is their goaltender, Jonathan Quick. Yes, Lundqvist and Brodeur have been good, but statistically, Quick has been the best in these playoffs, leading all remaining goalies in win percentage, goals against per game, and save percentage.

And I’m sure Los Angeles will be rocking and rolling if the Kings do, as I predict, make it to and then proceed to win the Stanley Cup.