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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
Brandon Prust
Canadiens' Prust Piles Up PIM
Brandon Prust, RW, MON
4:18 AM
News: Brandon Prust was assessed 31 minutes in penalties in Sunday's 6-2 loss in Game 2 to the Lightning.
Analysis: Brandon Prust started his day in the sin bin with a first-period roughing penalty that got bumped up to four minutes with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Later, his run of Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop behind the net incited a melee and resulted in several more infractions charged to him. None of the penalties cost Montreal a goal, but Prust was the poster boy for the team's undisciplined play in the Game 2 loss.

Jiri Hudler
Flames' Hudler Skates Sunday Morning
Jiri Hudler, LW, CGY
12:26 AM
News: Jiri Hudler (undisclosed) was able to take part in morning skate Sunday, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The FAN reports.
Analysis: He was also able to skate Saturday, which indicates that Jiri Hudler will likely be available for the Flames Game 2 contest Sunday night. It's possible that the large deficit the Flames faced when Hudler was initially injured played a part in his not returning to that contest.

Micheal Ferland
Flames' Ferland Will Go Sunday
Micheal Ferland, LW, CGY
12:18 AM
News: Micheal Ferland (upper body) indicated that he will play Game 2 Sunday against the Ducks, Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet 960 The FAN reports
Analysis: Micheal Ferland was forced out of the Ducks' Game 1 win with an upper body injury, and was not able to practice Saturday either. While he will go Sunday, the wing may still be hampered by this injury, putting his fantasy value into question a bit.

Matt Beleskey
Ducks' Beleskey Scores GWG In Game 2
Matt Beleskey, LW, ANA
5/3/2015
News: Matt Beleskey scored the game-winning goal in Game 2 against Calgary.
Analysis: It was an all-around productive night for Matt Beleskey, who also finished with four hits and five shots on goal. While he's no longer playing on the top line, the 26-year-old is skating on the second line with Ryan Kesler and has scored in back-to-back games. Considering he's seeing power play time and potted 22 goals in the regular season, it's fair to assume Beleskey might find twine a few more times this postseason. With seven shots on goal in Round 2 thus far, things appear to be trending upwards for Beleskey.

Ryan Getzlaf
Ducks' Getzlaf Tallies Two Helpers
Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA
5/3/2015
News: Ryan Getzlaf factored in on two of Anaheim's three goals in their shutout win over the Flames on Sunday.
Analysis: Lost amongst teammate Corey Perry laying waste to the Pacific Division is Ryan Getzlaf's impressive postseason. He now sits on 10 points -- tied for second in the league and trailing only linemate Perry. If the duo continue to be as effective as they have been thus far, there may be a very good chance this team can return to Stanley Cup glory once again.

Corey Perry
Perry Paces Ducks To Victory
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
5/3/2015
News: Corey Perry tallied two assists in Sunday's Game 2 win over Calgary.
Analysis: The Ducks have now won their first six playoff contests, due in no small part to Corey Perry's prolific scoring rate. He now has 13 points in six playoff games, and a commanding lead atop the NHL playoff scoring race.

Hampus Lindholm
Ducks' Lindholm Notches First Career Playoff Goal
Hampus Lindholm, D, ANA
5/3/2015
News: Hampus Lindholm scored his first career playoff goal in Sunday's 3-0 Game 2 win over the Flames.
Analysis: Hampus Lindholm now has six points in the playoffs -- good enough to sit alongside Sami Vatanen for the team lead amongst defensemen. If the Ducks can continue to put together strong offensive efforts like they have in the first six games of the playoffs, expect Lindholm to continue to pick up points.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Pitches 30-Save Shutout In Game 2
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
5/3/2015
News: Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shots he's faced in Sunday's Game 2 win over the Flames.
Analysis: Frederik Andersen is having a fantastic start to the second round, stopping 53 of 54 shots through two games. While he's been rock-solid, Anaheim has erupted for nine goals in Round 2, relieving some of the pressure off the 25-year-old. With a whopping .930 save percentage in the playoffs, expect Andersen to continue his strong play as the Ducks look to eliminate the Flames and move on to the Western Conference Final.

Karri Ramo
Flames' Ramo Outstanding In Game 2 Loss
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
5/3/2015
News: Karri Ramo stopped 31 of 33 shots in Sunday's Game 2 loss to the Ducks.
Analysis: An outstanding performance from Karri Ramo, who kept the Flames in a game they had no business being in. Considering he had replaced Jonas Hiller in the previous two games and looked fantastic Sunday, it's fair to assume Ramo will get the call again for Game 3. The 28-year-old only has four NHL playoff games under his belt, but he's been steady in two straight regular seasons and should give the Flames a fighting chance against the Ducks as the series shifts to Calgary.

Alex Killorn
Bolts' Killorn Adds Two Helpers In Win
Alex Killorn, C, TB
5/3/2015
News: Alex Killorn chipped in with two power-play assists in Sunday's Game 2 win over the Canadiens.
Analysis: Alex Killorn ended the regular season cold as he failed to get on the scoresheet in the final five games, but he's been able to turn the page since the start of the playoffs as he's now registered six points in nine games this postseason. The most encouraging news, however, may be that linemate Steven Stamkos broke out for three points in the win, so Killorn should benefit from his captain waking up out of his slump.

 
 
 
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