OK here we go, just minutes from the greatest tournament in all of sports. The New Jersey Devils have drawn the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round.
For as similar as these teams are, it's the small differences that will decide the series. Both teams forecheck hard and have great leadership. Langenbrunner and Elias and Shanahan provide excellent leadership for New Jersey. Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal provide it for Carolina. Both teams have solid if unspectacular defense corps. Cam Ward, the Carolina netminder, while lacking the career accolades of Devils star goalie Martin Brodeur can and most likely will match him. Do not think if you're a Devils fan just because Ward's name isn't Brodeur he's not a capable netminder.
Johnny thinks this'll break down like this: The Hurricanes will have an advantage in the faceoff circle, that's critical. Brind'Amour is one of the best ever. The Devils will have an advantage in sheer ability to score goals. If Parise gets bottled up, the Devils still have go to guys. Carolina isn't as goal ability strong as New Jersey. The Devils have home ice but Johnny thinks that's something that fans worry more about than players. Carolina got hot at the end of the year to make it in as the 6th seed. The Devils started strong and had a few normal travails that good teams have and still wound up with over 100 points.
Here's the difference; The Devils are better rested, giving them a little more energy to draw on coming in. This is going to be a long hard series. The Devils need to win the first two games at home, that could prove their undoing if they don't. You need those first two at home to really apply pressure on the opposition, forcing them to beat you 4 out of 5 games.
Devils in 7
Other first round matchups
Capitals over the Rangers in 5
Bruins over the Canadiens in 5
Flyers over the Penguins in 7
Sharks over the Ducks in 6
Red Wings (Woo Hoo) over the Blue Jackets in 6
Blues over Canucks in 7
Blackhawks over the Flames in 7