NHL Playoffs 2012: Would a Sweep Really Serve the Kings’ Best Interest?

Imagine the Los Angeles Kings polish off the Phoenix Coyotes and get it over with in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday. Now imagine it takes a full week longer for the Eastern Conference finals to wrap up as the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils push one another to Game 7.

Of all the possibilities for the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, that combination of events is one of the most realistic. For the Kings, this would mean an improbable 12-1 romp through the conference portion of the dance, followed by roughly 10 or 11 days before the final series commences.

For the opposition, it would mean either three or four days of rest, refocusing and turning the page for either a Rangers team coming off the maximum 21 games or a Devils team with 19 games already on its log.

Advantage Los Angeles? Not necessarily.

The notion that a disproportionately protracted layoff between playoff rounds comes back to drop the other skate on a previously dominant team probably gets more credit than it deserves. With that said, it does have some credibility based on historical evidence, both in hockey and in other sports.

The NBA has at least two pieces of evidence that favors the other side of this debate. In 2001, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers waited 10 days after sweeping the San Antonio Spurs to start clashing with the Philadelphia 76ers, who were three days removed from a Game 7 triumph over Milwaukee. The Lakers defended their crown in five games.

The same held true for the 1996 Chicago Bulls, who were not rusty in the least when they topped the Seattle Supersonics.

But in five of the last seven times any North American major sports championship had one finalist coming off a seven-game victory and the other a sweep, fresher momentum has prevailed over fresher legs.

Leading up to the 2007 World Series, the Cinderella Colorado Rockies went 7...

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