Jersey showdown: Devils face elimination by Panthers on Tuesday
The Florida Panthers weren't expected to be contenders in this year's playoffs. The team had been completely overhauled last summer under their still-new-car-smell GM; they had a new coach who was going to have his first year as an NHL coach. So long as the team climbed out of the league basement, anything else was gravy.
Yet they have pushed the NJ Devils to the brink of elimination in the first round.
The Devils have one of the defining goalies of the NHL in their net: Martin Brodeur, a goalie who is so good that the league changed the rules because of him - the implementation of the trapezoid, which came to be known as the "Brodeur rule". The last two seasons for Brodeur have been his two worst where he's played in 50 or more games, with a .903 sv%/2.45 GAA and .908 sv%/2.41. (There's plenty of goalies in the NHL whose best years haven't lived up to Brodeur's worst.) After 19 seasons in the league, fans and writers alike have wondered if this is Brodeur's final season - and shot at a Cup - or if he'll come back for one more year.
The Devils are also graced with some talented forwards, like Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, David Clarkson, and Calder nominee Adam Henrique. New Jersey has slowly changed its style under new coaches, but are also currently the oldest team in the league. Is their return to the playoffs a sign of good things to come in the years ahead?
The teams have been fairly well-matched so far in the playoffs, but the Panthers took a 3-2 lead in the playoffs this weekend, and hope to eliminate the Devils on Prudential Center ice on Tuesday night.
For either team, it would be a triumph - Brodeur and the Devils moving on to the second round for the first time since 2006 (when they lost to eventual Cup winner the Carolina Hurricanes).
For the Panthers, it would be redemption not only against the team that swept them the last time Florida appeared in the playoffs (2000), but for a team - and fanbase - that has waited 12 long years to even return to the playoffs.
Who will it be? Which team has the bigger drive to push through to the next round? Tune in Tuesday night to find out.
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The Panthers & Devils will drop the puck at 7:30 ET on Tuesday, April 24th. The game will be broadcast on NBCSN, RDS, TSN, MSG+ (HD)