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Neutral Zone Wrap: Evan Berofsky's Stanley Cup Preview

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky

Evan Berofsky enjoys writing. Seriously. When he’s not trying to shove hockey miscellany down your throat, he gets his kicks playing tournament Scrabble(TM). If you have anything to say about Evan’s work (or need any hot word tips), feel free to contact him at eberofsky@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter (@evanberofsky).


Gosh, when will these playoffs get exciting already? I mean, anyone who watched Game 7 of the Western Conference Final obviously had to be bored out of the their minds. And enough with the quiet crowds. Will someone wake these people up?!?

Speaking of low-key performances, Montreal apparently wasn't informed of their Game 1 afternoon start time and sputtered out of the gates. Carey Price's absence for the last five games should not be offered as an excuse for the Habs' woes, seeing how well Dustin Tokarski (2.60 GAA, .916 SV%) filled in.

Don't get misty eyed about Chicago. Two titles in four years look pretty good on a resume. And there's still a lot to like about their lineup, which should be mainly intact for the next little while. Kudos to Brandon Saad (16 points, including nine vs. LA) for stepping up as this postseason's version of Bryan Bickell (who struggled with only one point in the series) and a definite star in the making.

The Rangers are back in the Finals after 20 years. This isn't your Messier-led version of MSG's finest but that doesn't mean it lacks grit, heart, or determination. In fact, the roster is almost overflowing with these qualities, which have built up since the latter stages of the regular season. And they finally upped their production, with a healthy 20 goals in six versus the Habs.

Oh, and that earthquake you heard about Monday evening in Los Angeles? Everyone will eventually find out its cause was more of a result of the city's fairweather hockey fans jumping back on the bandwagon than any natural activity.

It's a shame it all has to end. But we knew this would happen, so let's try and enjoy the last series for everything it has to offer:

Finals Preview

Los Angeles (P3) vs. NY Rangers (M2) (Season series: Tied 1-1)

Who to watch: Shockwaves from Marian Gaborik's goal-scoring feats (12 this postseason, in addition to the five during his short stint after being traded) have been felt around the league. Can he continue his awesome run against one of his former clubs?…Mike Richards may technically center the fourth line but he has posted higher-level stats (five points in eight)…Even though he sits fourth on the Kings' D charts (with 'only' seven points), Slava Voynov possesses way too much skill to be ignored…A few bounces may have gone astray for Jonathan Quick (2.86, .906 SV%), but he's usually there when needed...What a resurgence for Chris Kreider the last two weeks (eight in six, 15 SOG)...While Dominic Moore's accomplishments (four in seven with a limited role) should be commended, the latest from Mats Zuccarello (scoreless in seven of his last eight) may be a point of concern…Were you worried over Ryan McDonagh's slow start (nothing in 10)? Feel better now (10 in six, including four PPPs)? ... All the superlatives have been used to describe Henrik Lundqvist, so let's leave you with the facts (2.03 GAA, .928 SV%).

Prediction: You gotta figure the Kings are exhausted after the maximum 21 games but their opponents endured only one fewer battle. Quick hasn't looked quick nor sharp of late while Lundqvist has proven the last few weeks he can singlehandedly dominate important games. The Blueshirts may not be able to match the LA attack but they won't have to. Start spreading the news. Stanley's coming back to town…Rangers in six.

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As we approach our conclusion, here are the latest MVP leaders. You-Know-Who is leading the pack but it probably wouldn't take a lot to vault into the lead: 1. Henrik Lundqvist; 2. Anze Kopitar; 3. Marian Gaborik; 4. Martin St. Louis; 5. Jonathan Quick.

That's all from this column for the 2013-14 season. You may see it pop up at times during the summer, but we'll get back to full speed in time for draft prep. Enjoy the great outdoors these next few months before the wind taps you on the shoulder and tells you it's time to come back inside.