Devils Visit Panthers: NHL Quarterfinals Game Two Preview

The New Jersey Devils continue their visit with the Panthers tonight at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida at 7:30 PM ET. Playoffs are happening everywhere, and anything seems possible. The Los Angeles Kings are playing David to the Vancouver Canucks Goliath, up two games to zero and headed back to the Staples Center. The Philadelphia Flyers are also up two-nil on the Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins. Yesterday afternoon, the Washington Capitals and their rookie goaltender took the defending champion Boston Bruins to two overtimes before evening the series at one apiece. Later on, eighth seeded Ottawa Senators took the home ice advantage from the powerhouse New York Rangers by taking a 3-2 overtime victory at MSG. The favored St. Louis Blues evened their series with the San Jose Sharks, 3-0 on home ice. The Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators remain tied at one, and the Phoenix Coyotes took the Chicago Blackhawks to overtime before allowing them to tie the series at one.

The Panthers and Devils had faced each other four times during the regular season, with Florida posting a 2-1-1 record: won 4-3 in November, lost a 3-2 shootout in December, dropped a 5-2 matchup in January and won 3-1 in February. As for the regular season, Florida posted a 21-9-11 (.646) home record while the Devils were 24-15-2 (.610) on the road.

After the debacle of the first period on Friday, many around the media were nodding their heads and saying, “I told you so,” as the Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead, blowing the doors off of Jose Theodore with 26 first period shots. Goals were tallied by Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, and Ryan Carter in the first period. Theodore remarked after the game about the siege,

Obviously in the playoffs you think it’s more defensive, but they’ve got experience, they came out ready. For myself, I don’t remember the last time I had 26 shots in a period. I was just trying to give my team a chance to win and make every save, but obviously they kept coming pretty hard.

Florida stormed back in the second period, as Sean Bergenheim showed some more of that playoff magic, scoring the first Panthers postseason goal in 12 years. Kris Versteeg pulled the Panthers within one with a power play marker later on, but the Devils came out in the third and clamped down on the Cats, running that old 1-3-1 which famously made New Jersey the most boring team ever to win the cup. Because it’s the cup.

Common Thread:

Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen posted a 32-19-5 record for the Devils over parts of five seasons. He had a .910 save percentage and a 2.54 goals against average with four shutouts during his time there. He also registered his only playoff experience, playing seven minutes back in 2006, making saves on each of the three shots he faced. He’d like to keep that save percentage steady, I can assure you.

Panthers fourth line center John Madden played the bulk of his NHL career in New Jersey. In 712 games over 10 seasons, he totalled 140 goals and 157 assists with a plus-35 rating and 193 penalty minutes. He also won two Stanley Cups with the team, in 112 career postseason matchups with the Devils, he scored 20 goals and 21 assists with a plus-three rating and 24 penalty minutes.

Devils fourth line winger Steve Bernier scored five goals and 10 assists over 68 games with the Panthers last season. He also registered a minus-14 rating with 21 penalty minutes.

The Devils other fourth line winger, Ryan Carter, began this season with Florida. Over parts of two seasons, he played 19 games, scoring two goals and an assist with a plus-two rating and 28 penalty minutes.

PostSeason Leaders

Panthers
Goals:
Kris Versteeg – 1
Sean Bergenheim – 1

Assists:
Mikael Samuelsson – 2
Marcel Goc – 1
Tomas Fleischmann – 1

Points:
Mikael Samuelsson – 2
Marcel Goc – 1
Sean Bergenheim – 1
Kris Versteeg – 1
Tomas Fleischmann – 1

Plus/Minus:
Most of the team – 0
7, 9, 20, 26, 55 – minus-1

Devils
Goals:

Dainius Zubrus – 1
Ryan Carter – 1
Patrik Elias – 1

Assists:
Dainius Zubrus – 1
Bryce Salvadore – 1
David Clarkson – 1

Points:
Dainius Zubrus – 2
Ryan Carter – 1
Patrik Elias – 1
Bryce Salvador – 1
David Clarkson – 1

Plus/Minus:
Eight Devils tied at plus-1

Injuries

Panthers:
Jack Skille will be back next season while Matt Bradley may be available in the near future. Krys Barch, Jerred Smithson, Keaton Ellerby and Mike Santorelli are scratched.

Devils:
Jacob Josefson is out with a broken clavicle, and Henrik Tallinder is listed as “doubtful” for the playoffs.

Probable Starting Lineups (based on Friday’s lineup)

Panthers
Forwards:

Tomas Fleischmann – Stephen Weiss – Kris Versteeg
Sean Bergenheim – Marcel Goc – Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski – Shawn Matthias – Scottie Upshall
Marco Sturm – John Madden – Tomas Kopecky

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison – Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov – Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski – Erik Gudbranson

Goalie:
Jose Theodore (0-1, .921, 3.06) is to make another start after stonewalling the Devils through the last 40 minutes of game one.

Devils
Forwards:

Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk
Petr Sykora – Patrik Elias – Dainius Zubrus
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Adam Henrique – David Clarkson
Ryan Carter – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier

Defensemen:
Andy Greene – Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky
Anton Volchenkov – Peter Harrold

Goalie:
Martin Brodeur (1-0, .923, 2.01) has been confirmed as the starter between the pipes.

Corsi Ratings (season)

Panthers:
Sean Bergenheim – .532
Marcel Goc – .524
Jason Garrison – .523
Scottie Upshall – .519
Brian Campbell – .518

Devils:
Alexei Ponikarovsky – .556
Marek Zidlicky – .542
Jacob Josefson – .534
Petr Sykora – .527
Patrik Elias – .522
Final Standings

Panthers: 38-26-18, .573, 94 points, first Southeast Divison, third Eastern Conference, 14th NHL.

Devils: 48-28-6, .622, 102 points, fourth Atlantic Division, sixth Eastern Conference, ninth NHL.

Prognostication

It was a great day for all of the mainstream media who have been calling us pretenders all season long. Luckily, Theodore kept his head and finished strong, his save percentage just about equal to “living legend” Martin Brodeur. The Devils exposed some defensive liabilities early in the game, as Dmitry Kulikov was caught flat-footed on the second New Jersey goal and Ed Jovanovski showed some signs of age. Jason Garrison couldn’t get the puck on the net in the offensive zone, and Erik Gudbranson is, um, a rookie. I said it in the game one preview, and I’ll repeat it here, the key to a victory tonight is not in blowing Brodeur away with an unending barrage, but in containing the Devils top two lines. As they were all season, they will also be key today, Mike Weaver and Brian Campbell need to come up big. My prediction didn’t come true last time, but I won’t let it stop me. Florida goes 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and ends up winning, 2-1 in overtime.

For all your Florida Panther needs, check out the Litter Box Cats. For more on this matchup, check out our opponents at In Lou We Trust.

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