Season Series: Florida 2-1-1, New Jersey 2-2-0
Game 1: 4/13 NJ @ FLA 6 PM
Game 2: 4/15 NJ @ FLA 6:30 PM
Game 3: 4/17 FLA @ NJ 6 PM
Game 4: 4/19 FLA @ NJ 6 PM
Game 5*: 4/21 NJ @ FLA 5:30 PM
Game 6*: 4/24 FLA @ NJ 6 PM
Game 7*: 4/26 NJ @ FLA 6:30 PM
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2000 when they were swept out of the 1st round by, you guessed it, the New Jersey Devils. “Blackhawks South” has been a pleasant surprise this season but have struggled down the stretch. They were only able to pick up 2 wins in their last 10 games of the season. The Panthers have themselves one of the top power plays in the league despite being ranked 27th in goals per game. The addition of Brian Campbell has boosted their power play numbers. Fellow defenseman Jason Garrison has 9 goals on the power play this season. They do not have a prototypical superstar but they have a roster full of smart players that can hurt you in many ways. The Panthers play the way their 1st year head coach, Kevin Dineen, played the game; a tough team with a bit of an edge.
Leading Scorer: Thomas Fleischmann 27 goals, 34 assists, 61 points
Backstop: Jose Theodore 22-16-11, 2.46 goals against average, .917 save %
Difference Maker: Jose Theodore will need to huge in this series. The Panthers will not be able to survive too many high scoring games so goaltending will be their key to success.
The Devils come into the playoffs winners of their last 6 games. Just like the Blackhawks, New Jesrey will not have home ice advantage despite having more points than their opponent. First year head coach Pete DeBoer, who used to coach the Panthers, has the Devils playing their best hockey of the season. The Devils set the modern day record for killing penalties by killing off 89.6% of their penalties. That is a weapon that can help you go a long way in the post season. The Devils have three 30 goal scorers in Ilya Kovalchuk (37), Zach Parise (31) and David Clarkson (30) so the Panthers blue line will have its hands full.
Leading Score: Ilya Kovalchuk 37 goals, 46 assists, 83 points
Backstop: Martin Brodeur 31-21-4, 2.41 goals against average, .908 save %
Ex-Blackhawks Factor: No ex-Hawks
Difference Maker: David Clarkson is the type of player that excels in the post season. He has a good scoring touch and uses his size to get to the dirty areas of the ice. He loves to dish out big hits as well as score big goals. This series could be a coming out party for Clarkson.
My Prediction: Devils in 7. I think New Jersey has more fire power and a better goalie, which will end the nice run of the Panthers.