Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Stanley Cup champions… the Los Angeles Kings!

Yeah, I know the Stanley Cup finals don’t start till Wednesday, and they’re still cleaning up champagne stains from the home locker room in Newark, but when it comes to the Kings, I am ready to crown their asses.  This would make them the first number eight seed to go all the way since the playoffs were expanded, but I have no reason to bet against them.  After all, their opponents are only a six-seed…

One thing you can bet on: this is gonna be a low-scoring final.  Between the Devils, forefathers of the neutral zone trap, and Darryl Sutter’s Kings, who only gave up 2.18 goals a game while scoring just 2.37–second fewest in the entire Western Conference–we can’t expect too many barn-burners from these two teams.

That being said, L.A. has come to play in this playoffs, blowing their regular-season goals-per-game numbers out of the water.  They put up four goals in their first two games against the Canucks, scored no fewer than three in any game of their four-game sweep of the Blues, and tallied four in three of their four wins over Phoenix.  On the other hand, they’ve only given up three goals twice in 14 playoff games to date, so the added scoring hasn’t come at the expense of their sound, defensive style of hockey.  Did I mention they needed no more than five games to dispatch the top three teams in the West?

On the other hand, the Devils barely squeaked past the Southeast Division winning Florida Panthers in the first round, needing seven games and three OTs to get the job done.  Though they’ve since turned in better performances against the battle-hardened Philadelphia Flyers and the San-Jose-Sharks-of-the-Eastern-Conference New York Rangers, this team has been far from the picture of consistency this postseason.  Though they’ve scored at least three goals in all of their wins, they’ve also been shut out three times–twice by Lundqvist and the Rangers in the last round.  Meanwhile Martin Brodeur, the once-ageless all-time wins leader is finally starting to show his age, and has looked a little shaky at times.  The same can’t be said of the Kings’ rock-solid backstop, Jonathan Quick, who’s carried a Vezina-worthy regular-season performance into the playoffs, and should add the Conn Smythe to his mantle as well.

L.A. hasn’t needed more than five games to eliminate an opponent this year, and I have no reason to expect any different in this round.  Kings 4, Devils 1.  Maybe now that the Lakers and Clippers have both been knocked out of the NBA playoffs, the city of Los Angeles might actually take notice.

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You know what the Flames need? Rick Nash!

With the Columbus Blue Jackets sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference again, it looks like the team is finally ready to field offers for its franchise player.  Rumours have him going everywhere from Philly to the Rangers to even the Toronto Maple Leafs (yeah, that’ll be the day!).  But you know who could really use him?  The Calgary Flames.

With their recent rash of injuries, the Flames have just three players who’ve scored more than seven goals this season–and even with everybody healthy, that number only doubles (assuming David Moss plays most of the year).  Aside from their first line of Tanguay, Jokinen and Iginla, Calgary has very little goal-scoring in the lineup until the likes of Glencross, Moss and Stempniak return from the injured list.  You know, we could really use a big winger with some scoring touch…

But what could the Flames give up to get him?  Good question.  Though they’ve had some solid contributions from young players like Backlund, Byron, Bouma and Horak, I don’t think the Jackets would trade Nash for the four of them combined.  A couple of these guys could become dependable players, but none of them is the next face of any NHL franchise.  And while I don’t follow our AHL affiliate all that closely, I haven’t heard of any top prospects waiting in the wings, considering that the team hasn’t really had a great draft since the 80′s.  Mind you, Sven Baertschi, last year’s first-round pick, has been scoring almost two points a game this season–but he’s still in junior hockey, and thus, a long way from the NHL.  When you’re a last place team trading your star player, you don’t wanna hafta wait 2-3 years for a return on your investment.

So, who lands Rick Nash then?  I hafta say, my money’s on L.A..  They’ve got an outstanding young backup goalie in Jonathan Bernier who’s clearly ready for more ice time, and some solid young defencemen like Jack Johnson who could be on the move.  Mind you, L.A. is probably the last place I’d wanna see him go, seeing as they’re sitting two points ahead of us for eighth place right now.  Did I mention the Flames play the Kings tonite?  I’ve got Calgary winning 2-1 in a shootout

As for Nash, I hope he ends up in the Eastern Conference, just as long as its not with the Leafs.  He’d already be anointed the next Wendell Clark before he steps off the plane…