EASTERN CONFERENCE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS ROUND 1
#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Top Players: Tomas Fleischmann, Steve Weiss, Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell
Talk about a makeover! If Kevin Dineen does not win coach of the year, it will be a miracle. The Panthers burned the midnight oil last off season to trade for/acquire talented players and turn them into a team. With additions like Versteeg, Campbell, Sean Bergenheim, Matt Bradley, and Jose Theodore and hiring of Dineen as head coach, the Panthers won the division title for the first time in franchise history and continue to look toward their first playoff run in a decade.
Bell the Cat: This team has shown it can work together to create chemistry, but that chemistry is only effective when players are healthy. These cats have been plagued by injury and to succeed, the remaining players need to remain on the ice. Goaltending can also be shaky at times. Although Jose Theodore has a better record, Scott Clemmensen has been a beast leading up to the playoffs. It’s anyone’s guess who will represent the Panthers between the pipes.
Top Players: Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur
This team is evidence of what can happen when a team experiences health. With Zach Parise out with a knee injury most of last season and superstar Ilya Kovalchuk not living up to his $100 million dollar contract, the Devils ended up with a 4th overall pick in the entry draft. GM Lou Lamoriello picked up Adam Larsson with the pick. Add in the maturation of Adam Henrique and the newly found scoring of David Clarkson and a playoff team emerges. Look for Patrik Elias to help with goal scoring as well.
The Devil in the Details: For this team to be successful, Brodeur needs to be a consistent brick wall behind his team. He and Johan Hedberg are the oldest goal tandem in the league and hopefully their veteran experience helps their team through the first round. The Devils need to stay off the unhealthy scratch list as well.