NEW YORK, NY - MAY 12: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 and Marc Staal #18 of the New York Rangers celebrate after they won 2-1 against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Hey all! The first two rounds are now in the books and we are into the Conference Finals! While we continue to lament the fact that the Winnipeg Jets will be using their summer to shake the rust off their golf swing, purchase new fishing tackle or spend cool summer nights boating the great lakes of Minnesota, four battle-tested teams will continue the fight for their chance to win this years Stanley Cup trophy. Will it be the Rangers, Devils, Coyotes or Kings that will be crowned league champions this June?
Stick around for the Conference Final picks of Trevor, Ben, Gabe, Ryan, Tim, Graham, Derek Daniel and a 25 cent Canadian quarter. Feel free to point out just how wrong we are and how awesome the quarter is.
After the Semifinals, here are our "expert" standings:
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter 8-4, Trevor 8-4, Gabe 7-5, Derek 6-6, Graham 6-6, Ryan 6-6, Ben 5-7, Tim 5-7, Daniel 0-0.
Season series tied 3-3.
Why Phoenix will win: Mike Smith. Seriously, do you need more of a reason?! Okay, well they also have trade deadline acquisition Antoine Vermette leading the team with 9 points and have drawn first blood in seven of their eleven playoff games. Couple that with the aforementioned Smith and it could be a deadly mix for the Kings.
Why Los Angeles will win: A lot of attention has been heaped on the play of Jonathan Quick lately, but the fact that the Kings have been so good outside of the crease has flown under the radar. The addition of Jeff Carter has made them a much better puck possession team that bears a striking resemblance to the 2004 Calgary Flames -- also coached by Darryl Sutter -- who came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup.
Fun Fact: Should the Kings win this series, they will have beaten the 1, 2 and 3 ranked teams in the Western Conference, which would officially be the toughest road to the finals in league history.
Gabe's Take: Only the most vengeful God with a deep and abiding hatred of the game of hockey and the city of Winnipeg would allow the Phoenix Suns to get a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Trevor's pick: Phoenix in 6.
Ben's pick: Los Angeles in 6.
Gabe's pick: Los Angeles in 6.
Ryan's pick: Los Angeles in 5.
Tim's pick: Los Angeles in 6.
Graham's pick: Los Angeles in 4.
Derek's pick: Phoenix in 7.
Daniel's pick: Los Angeles in 5.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: Los Angeles.
Season series tied 3-3.
Why New York will win: The shot-blockingest team in shot blocking history (much to the dismay of the Illegal Curve) will look to win more one goal games against their longstanding foes from across the Hudson. Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist have been more than willing to carry their team for the bulk of this postseason, and if names like Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan heat up, that could spell bad news for the Devils.
Why New Jersey will win: Cyborg Ilya Kovalchuk has really stepped up his game these playoffs, scoring at a point per game pace despite having a herniated disk. Ouch. Potential Calder Trophy winner Adam Henrique had a fantastic series against the Philadelphia Flyers and Martin Brodeur looks like vintage Marty circa 1999 again.
Fun Fact: Should the Rangers win this series, they will have beaten the 8, 7 and 6 ranked teams in the Eastern Conference, which would officially be the easiest road to the finals in league history.
Gabe's Take: This is an easy call. The Rangers just showed how clutch they are, winning two consecutive Game 7's. New Jersey only did it once, and they did not beat the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7.
Trevor's pick: New Jersey in 7.
Ben's pick: New York in 7. (Matteau game winner)
Gabe's pick: New York in 6.
Ryan's pick: New York in 6.
Tim's pick: New Jersey in 6.
Graham's pick: New York in 6.
Derek's pick: New York in 6.
Daniel's pick: New Jersey in 6.
2011 25 cent Canadian quarter picks: New York.
Ed. Note: I incompetently left the quarter at the office over the weekend. It's picks will be updated first thing Monday morning.