Like the horse that won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the Pacific Division teams were certainly late-runners this season. Throughout much of March, Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose and the Kings traded the division lead among each other, and for a while it seemed as though only two of those four times might make the playoffs. Three of them ended up making it, and now two of them are in the Western Conference Finals. It’s the first time, under the current playoff setup, that two Pacific Division teams have met in the conference finals. As it turns out, perhaps the parity in the division meant that while there wasn’t one “super team,” a la Vancouver or St. Louis, there were a few good teams that pushed each other throughout the season. Anze Kopitar said the conference-final matchup reflects well on the division.
KOPITAR: “It’s a good division. Everybody was obviously in the running. Anaheim just had the bad start, but they were picking it up. In the last part of the season, they were going good. I guess if the season was a little longer, they would be in contention to make the playoffs too. It is what it is now, and we’ve got to get ready for Phoenix.”
This is also the second consecutive year in which two teams from the Pacific time zone will meet in the Western Conference Finals. Last year, it was Vancouver and San Jose. Since the lockout year, nine different teams have reached the Western Conference Finals: Edmonton, Anaheim, Detroit, Dallas, Chicago, San Jose, Vancouver, Phoenix and the Kings.
BROWN: “It’s bringing excitement to different markets. It shows the parity in the league, when you have two teams that probably weren’t expected to be in this situation, fighting for a chance to be in the Cup Finals.”