As the field of remaining teams challenging for The Stanley Cup continues to narrow, fans of the also-rans find themselves looking for somewhere to cast their support. This season's final four are increasingly looking like a final three (with the Phoenix Coyotes not-long for this world), neutral fans are faced with a three-way choice between the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings.
The Rangers and Devils are conspiring to play the least-exciting conference championship series in recent memory, with the games so far playing out as defensive grind-fests. When the New Jersey Devils, progenitors of the dreaded neutral-zone trap, are being referred to as the feisty and entertaining part of the matchup, you know you have a dud on your hands.
LA on the other hand, is playing a fast, dynamic and dominating style of hockey that is both physical yet sublime, losing only one of their first twelve games this post-season. Even with the LA sports spotlight being shared along with the NBA's LA Lakers and Clippers, the Kings have been embraced by the City of Angels in a way unseen since the Wayne Gretzky era.
Canada was defeated by Slovakia 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the IIHF World Hockey Championships, giving the Canadian hockey press a fresh source of faux-angst to grind as we reach the midway point between the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Canada has never warmed to the annual world tournament, due primarily to its scheduling conflict with the NHL playoffs, and the European venues which make the games inconvenient to watch live. However, this does represent the first time that Canada has lost at the quarterfinal stages in three consecutive years, leading some pundits to question Canada's commitment to its international hockey program following its epic victory at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.