The Carolina Hurricanes roared into the postseason going 9-2 over thier final 11 games. And their reward? A date with the Devils, a squad that has cruised along near the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, with or without a healthy Martin Brodeur.
After failing to reach the playoffs in the two seasons after their 2006 Stanley Cup championship, are the Hurricanes ready to make a postseason impression once again?
The most significant difference between these two teams is the 5-on-5 Goals For/Against ratio, which tips heavily in New Jersey's favor.
|2008 - Michael Leighton||19||1029||6||7||2||1||50||2.92||507||457||.901||0|
|2008 - Cam Ward||68||3928||39||23||5||10||160||2.44||1901||1741||.916||6|
|2008 - Martin Brodeur||31||1814||19||9||3||2||73||2.41||870||797||.916||5|
No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:
|Carolina||Penalties Drawn||New Jersey Devils||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Erik Cole||49||25||+24||David Clarkson||46||46||0|
|Eric Staal||45||24||+21||Mike Rupp||39||39||0|
|Tuomo Ruutu||40||37||+3||Zach Parise||32||12||+20|
|Tim Gleason||30||28||+2||Patric Elias||29||16||+13|
|Chad LaRose||26||16||+10||Jamie Langenbrunner||25||25||0|
|Ray Whitney||23||16||+7||Dainius Zubrus||21||27||-6|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Tuomo Ruutu||40||37||+3||David Clarkson||46||46||0|
|Joni Pitkanen||13||30||-17||Mike Rupp||39||39||0|
|Tim Gleason||30||28||+2||Bobby Holik||13||33||-20|
|Erik Cole||49||25||+24||Bryce Salvador||16||30||-14|
|Eric Staal||45||24||+21||Dainius Zubrus||21||27||-6|
|Niclas Wallin||8||21||-13||Jamie Langenbrunner||25||25||0|
This area is very interesting, in that Carolina led the NHL with 374 power play opportunities over the course of the season, while New Jersey was dead last with only 307.
This is a tough series to call, as I'm inclined to minimize the season-long statistical advantage enjoyed by New Jersey due to the way Carolina has played of late, particularly after re-acquiring winger Erik Cole at the trade deadline. In the New Jersey net, Brodeur has had a few substandard efforts down the stretch, and may not yet be in top form due to the injury which kept him out of action for almost four months. If he struggles, how quickly will Brent Sutter yank him? Too slow, I'm guessing, and I'm calling for a Carolina Hurricanes upset here.