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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
Jake Dowell
Wild Send Dowell To AHL
Jake Dowell, C, MIN
12:45 AM
News: Jake Dowell has been assigned to AHL Iowa.
Analysis: Jake Dowell, who will return to Iowa with 17 points in 54 AHL games to date, remains a candidate for recall if the Wild require added depth up front as the playoffs progress.

Brenden Dillon
Stars' Dillon Absent From Morning Skate
Brenden Dillon, D, DAL
12:17 AM
News: Brenden Dillon (lower body) wasn't on the ice for morning skate Wednesday and looks like a game-time decision for Game 1 against the Ducks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Brenden Dillon was considered likely to play in Game 1 as recently as two days ago, but his inability to participate in practice since that time now has him looking questionable at best. The uncertainty of his injury situation probably makes him a defenseman to avoid in playoff pools.

Kari Lehtonen
Stars Roll With Lehtonen For Game 1
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL
12:07 AM
News: Kari Lehtonen will be in the crease for Game 1 of the Stars' first-round series with the Ducks, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Frankly, it would be more surprising if Kari Lehtonen didn't make the start for every game throughout the playoffs than if he did. The Stars will lean heavily on their netminder as they return to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Corey Perry
Perry Assists In Ducks' Game 1 Victory
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Corey Perry was credited with an assist during the first period of a 4-3 defeat of the Stars in the opening game of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday.
Analysis: Corey Perry has had a phenomenal regular season and hopefully Game 1's assist is a sign that the postseason will be a continuation of that high level of play. The Ducks will need this to be the case, especially if Wednesday's injury to teammate Ryan Getzlaf turns out to be serious.

Mathieu Perreault
Perreault Finds Net In Ducks' Game 1 Win
Mathieu Perreault, C, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Mathieu Perreault scored a power play goal late in the first period of a 4-3 defeat of the Stars on Wednesday.
Analysis: Although the has defintely cooled since the end of March, the Ducks nonetheless have to be happy to see Mathieu Perreault already make an impact so early in the playoffs.

Kyle Palmieri
Ducks' Palmieri Lights The Lamp In Game 1 Win
Kyle Palmieri, RW, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Kyle Palmieri scored the opening goal early in the first period of a 4-3 victory over the Stars on Wednesday.
Analysis: After going pointless in his final three games of the regular season, the Ducks have to be happy to see him find the net in the opening game of the playoffs.

Matt Beleskey
Beleskey Impressive In Ducks' Game 1 Victory
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Matt Beleskey scored a power play goal and nabbed an assist during a 4-3 defeat of the Stars in the opening game of the playoffs on Wednesday.
Analysis: Matt Beleskey has had a pretty productive April so far and, if Wednesday's strong performance is any indication, he intends to continue that high level of play into the postseason.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Stops 3 In Playoffs Premier Win
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 32 of 35 shots on goal during a 4-3 victory over the Stars on Wednesday.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen's save percentage of .914 was solid for a rookie goalie making his playoff debut. It will be interesting to see how long the Ducks decide to go with him, as he has only started three consecutive games only a few times this season.

Ryan Getzlaf
Getzlaf Leaves Game With Injury
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
4/16/2014
News: Ryan Getzlaf was hit in the face by a puck and left with 16.8 seconds left in the third period of a 4-3 win over the Stars in the first game of the playoffs on Wednesday. He scored a goal and notched an assist prior to that.
Analysis: We will have to wait for more information before the health of Ryan Getzlaf can be determined. On the plus side, his two points in the first postseason game of the year indicate that he's is carrying the roll that he was on in the regular season into the playoffs.

Brandon Sutter
Sutter Wins It For Pens Wednesday
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
4/16/2014
News: Brandon Sutter scored a game-winning goal against Columbus on Wednesday.
Analysis: Suter played well, centering a line with Lee Stempniak and Beau Bennett for much of the night. He was taken down on a breakaway, but no penalty or penalty shot was awarded. Pittsburgh is looking for contributions outside of its top two lines and Brandon Sutter came through in the clutch.

 
 
 
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