Devils should “upset” Panthers in the East
(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Even though the Panthers will have home ice advantage, many people will consider New Jersey the favourites going into this series. The Devils finished the season with ten more wins and eight more points than the Panthers. In fact the only reason the Panthers weren’t scrapping their way into the playoffs is because of the NHL’s division rule. (Division winners get ranked 1st through 3rd).
Out of the 16 teams that made the playoffs the Panthers finished with the most losses (44), yet still managed to get home ice advantage. (Ridiculous, isn’t it?) This is because 18 of those losses were in extra time. So basically, the Panthers won their division and were awarded the third seed because they were better at losing. (Doesn’t make much sense, but we will save that rant for another day).
The Panther had a negative goal differential at the end of the season (-24), while the Devils were noticeably better finishing with a +19.
Backed by veteran net minder Marty Brodeur the Devils have a decent group of veterans with playoff experience. Forwards Petr Sykora, Patrick Elias and Danius Zubrus along with defensemen Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Marek Zidlicky have all made lengthy playoff runs before. Head coach Peter DeBoer will look to his veterans to help out some of the youngsters get through the series.
If the regular season numbers hold true this will be a low scoring series. The Devils finished the season 15th in goals for while the Panthers sat in the basement at 27th in that category. If they are low scoring close games New Jersey will have the advantage – having won 24 one-goal games this season.
Another stat that favours the Devils is their penalty kill – they led the NHL in short-handed goals in 2011-12 with 15 (nine more than the Panthers).
Also, don’t expect a ton of shot blocking in games between these two teams. This season saw the Panthers rank 25th and Devils 30th in blocked shots.
All of the stats and comparisons between these two teams favour New Jersey because the Devils were actually a better team over the course of the season. Don’t let the sixth seed fool you; the Devils are a dark horse in this year’s post-season.
New Jersey in 5 games