For me, this is the feel-good series of the first round. The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils each struggled last year, but have rebounded for excellent seasons and chances to win a Stanley Cup. Florida is the division champion out of the Southeast, while the Devils ended up finishing fourth in the loaded Eastern Division behind the Penguins, Rangers and Flyers.
Regular season series was TIED, 2-2.
Nov 21st — New Jersey 3, Florida 4
Dec 13th — New Jersey 3, Florida 2 (Shootout)
Jan 6th — Florida 2, New Jersey 5
Feb 11th — Florida 3, New Jersey 1
GAME 1 OF SERIES — Devils 3, Panthers 2
1. Martin Brodeur – Even though Brodeur is a legend at the goaltending position, he is not as young and athletic as he once was between the pipes. However, he did have a fairly successful regular season with 31 wins and a 2.41 goals against average. If the Devils offense has any problems putting the puck in the back of the net, they will need Brodeur to outplay Jose Theodore. It should be an intriguing battle to watch all series.
2. Build Upon End Of Season Success – New Jersey finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak and with seven wins in its final 10. This was significantly better than the 2-3-5 record that Florida ended the year on. Therefore, based on momentum alone, you have to like the Devils in this series… if they can continue to play the same level of hockey. That’s obviously easier said then done.
1. Cherish The Moment – I realize that this doesn’t speak to what the Panthers must do to win the series, but for them part of the fun of the postseason will be just being there. Florida hasn’t competed for a Stanley Cup since 2000 and were last involved in the finals a few years earlier but were swept by the Colorado Avalanche. This may create some added pressure for the team to perform well, so a lot of their success will depend on how they respond to adversity.
2. Slow The Devils Goal Scorers – Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and David Clarkson have combined for 123 goals this season, which make them an unbelievably dangerous tandem of scorers for New Jersey. And, on the other end of the ice, the Panthers are without nearly as many lethal offensive options. So, it will be of the highest importance that Florida slows this group down so they have any chance of outscoring them.
I like the Panthers, I really do. They are an amazing story and have a group of outstanding and lovable players on the roster. However, I do have my concerns about them stopping the numerous scoring options that the Devils possess. And, with the home defeat in tonights series opener, New Jersey has even more of an advantage moving forward. I’ll take the six seed in this matchup.
New Jersey advances, 4 games to 2