NHL Network Manager – Randy Holt
The Florida Panthers are one of the surprise teams of the 2011-2012 campaign, after a massive roster overhaul orchestrated by Dale Tallon last summer. He finally added some notable names to go along with Stephen Weiss, with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann having very good years, though they were a bit hampered by their respective injuries. Brian Campbell is quietly one of the best defensemen in the league, and has shown it this year in South Beach. And Jose Theodore has played much better than many expected.
However, this is a matchup where the no. 6 seed should be, and likely will be, favored over the division winner. The New Jersey Devils come out of what is possibly the best division in hockey, in the Atlantic Division. They have plenty of offense to keep them going, with Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Zach Parise, and Patrick Elias running the show. This is also a team that doesn’t give up a lot of goals. They’re no. 9 in the league in goals allowed, while the Panthers rank in the bottom half of the league in offense. That doesn’t exactly look like a recipe for success for the Cats.
Prediction: New Jersey in 5.