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Neutral Zone Wrap: Get ready for the finals

by | Rotowire.com
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Assuming no one saw this coming. A six seed taking on an eight seed, but it's not as if either finalist finished way behind heading in to the postseason. Let's just call this the usual wackiness that happens this time of the year. For those who don't normally follow hockey, these playoffs have been as easy to predict as guaranteeing which team Rick Nash will end up with this summer. (Spoiler alert: It won't be Columbus).

Congrats to both the Devils and the Kings for reaching hockey's pinnacle. And to that one guy's dog who filled out the only correct playoff bracket on the planet. But enough about fictitious Fantasy glory. Let's see what these two have to do to get a clue. Or win it all. Whatever comes first.

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

New Jersey (No. 6 seed in the East) vs. Los Angeles (No. 8 seed in theWest)

Season series: New Jersey 2-0

Guess Ilya Kovalchuk (now on top in postseason scoring with 18 points) is really worth all that $100 million ... After heating up the first two series, Travis Zajac (10 in 11) fell back to Earth (two in seven)... Paging Patrik Elias (only six, with a lone goal in the Rangers series). Would someone please find out to where he has disappeared? ... Not bad when your fourth line (Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, and Steve Bernier combining for 19 points) becomes a regular contributor ... Marek Zidlicky (eight, including four on the power-play) may be the blueliner everyone expects to produce but Bryce Salvador not only leads Jersey defensemen in points (11) but can claim the best plus-minus (plus-10) of any Devil...Is there anything Dustin Brown (leads or is tied for first with plus-13, 24 penalty minutes, 49 shots on goal, 67 hits, two short-handed goals) can't do? ... After their adventures in Philly, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (totaling 20, including four power-play goals) have been able to chip in very nicely ... Never really heard much from Trevor Lewis (13 in 72) during the regular season, but way to step it up lately -- especially against Phoenix (four in five) ... Another surprise up front has been rookie Dwight King (four in five), who posted solid numbers in two different leagues (14 in 27 in the NHL and 29 in 50 in the AHL) ... There is life beyond Drew Doughty (10) on defense, although neither Slava Voynov (three) nor Willie Mitchell (two) has regularly found the scoresheet.

Prediction: Both head-to-head meetings (2-1 and 3-0) were way back in October, so you can't really take much from them...The Devils' roster may contain more playoff experience, but there's no discounting how well the Kings have worked as a unit. The two sides have increased momentum as the rounds have progressed, so no advantage there. The city of Los Angeles has been waiting for a local winner since the franchise began 45 years ago (sorry, Anaheim doesn't count), although many residents still think the Kings play out of Sacramento. So, yeah, I'll stick to the boring pick of ... Kings in six.

The Conn Smythe candidates become increasingly obvious at this stage. You could almost swap any of these players at any spot in the following Top 5: 1. Dustin Brown; 2. Jonathan Quick; 3. Martin Brodeur; 4. Ilya Kovalchuk; 5. Adam Henrique. (Henrique may not possess the eye-popping stats (11), but you can't argue with two overtime game-series winning goals.)

Well, it's been an exciting season. But, as you well know, hockey never sleeps. There's the draft next month, but the real excitement begins July 1 when free agent season opens for business. So after the on-ice activity has concluded, sit tight and dream about the players your team will acquire (or jettison). I will return soon. Promise.

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Player News
Mike Fisher
Preds' Fisher Notches Two Points In Loss
Mike Fisher, C, NSH
12:57 PM
News: Mike Fisher factored into all the Nashville offense Thursday, picking up a goal and an assist in a 4-2 loss to the Wild.
Analysis: Mike Fisher's been a scoresheet regular of late, with seven points in his last eight games, but that's nothing new -- he's been producing offense at a terrifically steady rate since returning from the Achilles' heel injury that kept him out of action in the season's early months.

Erik Haula
Wild's Haula Snaps Slump
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
12:54 PM
News: Erik Haula finished with a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating in Thursday's win over the Preds.
Analysis: The Finnish forward had gone five games without a point and had just a lonely goal in his last 15 games. He's got little to no fantasy value right now, but Erik Haula has been a successful scorer at the University of Minnesota and AHL Iowa, so he does have long-term upside.

Kyle Brodziak
Wild's Brodziak Picks Up Two Points
Kyle Brodziak, C, MIN
12:50 PM
News: Kyle Brodziak notched a goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating Thursday in a win over the Predators.
Analysis: Kyle Brodziak had managed all of three points in his prior 17 games, so this qualifies as an outlier. His middling PIM and hit totals give him some value in super-deep leagues, but that's about it.

Lars Eller
Habs' Eller Dropped To Third Line
Lars Eller, C, MON
3:50 AM
News: Lars Eller was dropped to the third line for Thursday night's win over Columbus, Hockey Inside Out reports. He had one shot on goal, one hit and finished plus-1 in 12:33 of ice time.
Analysis: Newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly was given a coveted spot as a top-six forward on the second line, forcing Lars Eller to skate with Brandon Prust and rookie Jacob De La Rose.

Brendan Gallagher
Habs' Gallagher Streaking
Brendan Gallagher, RW, MON
3:41 AM
News: Brendan Gallagher had an assist, his fourth straight game with a point, in Thursday night's 5-2 win over Columbus.
Analysis: Brendan Gallagher had been in a scoring slump until the past week or so. He's tallied six points (four goals, two assists) during his four-game run. He's a spark in the Candadiens' offense and will get his points, so fantasy players need to ride out those fallow periods. At 36 points through 61 games, he's sure to pass his career-high mark of 41 points set last season.

Claude Giroux
Flyers' Giroux Grabs Two Points
Claude Giroux, C, PHI
1:28 AM
News: Claude Giroux put up a power-play goal, a power-play assist and two penalty minutes Thursday in a 3-2 loss to Toronto.
Analysis: After a slump in which he managed just a single point in six games, Claude Giroux's now turned out two-point performances in two of his last three outings. Slumps happen, but he's still one of the best players in fantasy.

Rob Zepp
Flyers' Zepp Stumbles As Mason Returns
Rob Zepp, G, PHI
1:26 AM
News: Rob Zepp was pulled after allowing two goals on eight shots Thursday in a loss to Toronto.
Analysis: Steve Mason came on and stopped eight of nine, which ended up getting him the loss instead of Rob Zepp. WIth Mason back now, Zepp's starts will dry up, and he could be sent back to AHL Adirondack, although the Flyers could also try to demote or cut Ray Emery.

Steve Mason
Flyers' Mason Makes Relief Appearance
Steve Mason, G, PHI
1:22 AM
News: Steve Mason (knee) came on for Rob Zepp in the second period Thursday against Toronto, giving up one goal on nine shots in the loss.
Analysis: Steve Mason was the one who ended up stuck with the loss, unfortunately. Still, he looked decent as he made his return to the Flyers' net following a multi-week absence due to a knee injury. The Flyers will almost certainly turn back to Mason when they host the Rangers on Saturday.

Danny DeKeyser
Wings' DeKeyser Snaps Slump
Danny DeKeyser, D, DET
1:18 AM
News: Danny DeKeyser ended a five-game pointless skid Thursday with a pair of third-period assists and a plus-2 rating in a win over the Sharks.
Analysis: Going back further, Danny DeKeyser had just two points in the last 13 games entering play Thursday. Still, he's earned praise from the coaching staff this year, and at age 24, he still has room to develop his offensive game.

Antti Niemi
Niemi, Sharks Go Down In Third Period
Antti Niemi, G, SJ
1:15 AM
News: Antti Niemi allowed three goals on 35 shots Thursday in a loss to the Red Wings.
Analysis: He had a 2-1 lead deep into the third period, but Antti Niemi ended up allowing a pair of goals to flip the script and take the loss. At least he provided decent rate stats while taking his sixth loss in his last eight starts.

 
 
 
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