Someone who once plied his trade in the NCAA will get his name on the Stanley Cup when the NHL's championship series between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers gets sorted out over the next two weeks.
The upstart Rangers, who advanced to their first final in 20 years on the strength of some notable performances by former college players, boast no less than nine former collegians on their current playoff roster. All but one will be seeking to get his name etched on sports' most storied prize for the first time.
Derek Stepan, Wisconsin and Martin St. Louis, Vermont
Stepan and St. Louis are tied for the team playoff scoring lead among forwards with 13 points apiece while also providing inspiration for their teammates.
Stepan returned from a broken jaw last round to score twice in his first game back, and he has five goals in all.
St. Louis, who was acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, has been a veritable rock in the wake of his mother’s passing during the second round. He is a former Stanley Cup winner with the Lightning 10 years ago and has scored six times this spring—including an overtime game-winner.
Ryan McDonagh, Wisconsin
Just as much of a fixture on the blueline has been Ryan McDonagh, who has registered three goals and 10 assists to lead all Rangers defensemen in points these playoffs with 13.
A former Wisconsin teammate of Stepan's, McDonagh has played 25 minutes or more in four of the Rangers' last five outings and has skated at least 29 shifts in all 20 playoff appearances, according to NHL.com. He's also the second highest-scoring defenseman remaining in the playoffs this year behind the Kings' Drew Doughty.
Dominic Moore, Harvard
Moore put the exclamation point on New York’s deciding Game 6 victory in the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal last week when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Madison Square Garden. He has picked up three goals and four assists in 20 games this postseason (while winning 57 percent of his faceoff attempts) after taking off last season following the passing of his wife.
Brian Boyle, Boston College
Setting Moore up for the clincher was 6’7” forward, Brian Boyle. Boyle began his NHL career with the Kings before coming to Manhattan in a 2009 offseason trade and has two goals and four assists in 20 playoff games this year.
More importantly, he has been a key cog in the Rangers’ postseason penalty-killing efforts, which have functioned at nearly 86 percent—second-best among all teams in this year’s playoffs.
Chris Kreider, Boston College
Kreider was vilified in Quebec after colliding with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in Game 1 of the ECF, but he has 10 points in 10 playoff games this spring after returning from hand surgery.
Kreider actually catalyzed the Rangers' current 7-2 run that began back in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, scoring a game-opening power-play goal as New York ultimately won three straight games to oust the favored Penguins. A two-time NCAA champion with BC, he has 10 goals in his short NHL playoff career—four of those have been game-winners.
Carl Hagelin, Michigan
Tied with Kreider with 10 points is speedster Carl Hagelin. The player whom former head coach John Tortorella once said stunk on the power play is knotted with St. Louis for the Rangers’ goal-scoring lead with six tallies.
Cam Talbot, Alabama-Huntsville
Cam Talbot has mopped up for all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist twice in these playoffs—allowing just two goals in 46 minutes. He has missed the last few practices, as reported on Yardbarker, but has made the trip to California. David LeNeveu (Cornell) is the Rangers' third option in net.
Back in 1994 the Rangers claimed their first Cup in 54 seasons, with Brian Leetch (Boston College) becoming the first American to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP.
We'll find out if history is on New York's side—and if it will repeat itself—starting tonight at the Staples Center.