2012 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
No. 6 NEW JERSEY DEVILS
at No. 3 FLORIDA PANTHERS
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals - Game 7, Series Tied 3-3
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
Line: New Jersey -125, Florida +105, Total: 5
The Florida Panthers look to win their first playoff series since 1996 when they host the New Jersey Devils for a pivotal Game 7 in Sunrise on Thursday night.
The Devils were heavy favorites at the start of this series (-200) despite having the lower seed, but the Panthers have silenced many critics pushing this series to seven games. Actually, it was the Devils who pushed it to Game 7, thanks to Travis Zajac’s overtime winner in Game 6 on Tuesday night with New Jersey on the brink of elimination. The home team has won three straight in this series, and four of six overall. And while the Stanley Cup Playoffs are typically marked by tight checking and low scoring, this series has bucked the trend. In each of the first five games, a team held a 3-0 lead. Game 6 came close to mimicking this obscure trend, with the Devils blowing a 2-0 lead before winning 3-2 in overtime. Both teams seem content to play a fast break style and score on the rush, and the Panthers have been successful by rolling four lines and tiring the Devils out with their depth. The problem is, Florida is playing with fire trying to win that way against a New Jersey team with snipers like Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils haven’t made it into the second round since 2007—a long wait for a team accustomed to success. Look for the veteran presence of future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur to be the difference as NEW JERSEY pulls out the series on the road.
This FoxSheets trend also likes the Devils:
NEW JERSEY is 17-8 ATS (68.0%, +8.9 Units) off a home win this season. The average score was NEW JERSEY 2.7, OPPONENT 2.2 - (Rating = 2*).
The Panthers have used their size and speed to frustrate the Devils, who have relied heavily on their top two lines for offensive production—Parise, Kovalchuk and Zajac have combined for eight of the 15 goals scored by New Jersey in this series. The Cats, on the other hand, have gotten great production from grinders like Sean Bergenheim, who is tied for the team lead in points with three goals and two assists.
The Panthers could be without two key players in their lineup for this game. Starting G Jose Theodore (2-1, .912 SV Pct., 1 SO) is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and key defenseman Jason Garrison (1 G, 1 A in 3 games) is also questionable with a lower body injury. Both players missed Game 6, and Florida may have to turn to No. 2 goalie Scott Clemmensen. The former Devil backup has allowed seven combined goals in his past two starts in this series—both losses.
The Devils desperately need to get some help from their depth forwards. Rookie C Adam Henrique (16 G, 35 A) and trade deadline acquisition Alexei Ponikarovsky (14 G, 19 A) have been held to one assist each. If secondary scorers can get going Jersey, it could finally put them over the top in this series.