With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.
You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.
No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.
They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.
With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at two Northeast division teams, but today we’ll move south for our preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.
There’s a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes.
Despite missing the postseason for the third straight season, and finishing last in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes were one of the teams itching for the lockout to end. A draft-day trade for Jordan Staal gives the team a big weapon down the middle, and the addition of sniper Alex Semin could turn into one of the best bargain signings by general manager Jim Rutherford.
Kirk Muller took over after a 4-10-2 November swoon last season, and brought the Hurricanes back from dead. At one point, the team sat just five points out of the playoffs before losing four of their last five games.
Carolina had a ton of momentum carrying them before the lockout. Can they find it again and contend for a spot in the top eight?
With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at the Boston Bruins, and we’ll continue today with a preview of the Buffalo Sabres.
Last year was supposed to be the year in Buffalo.
New owner Terry Pegula, not afraid to open up the checkbook, brought in Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr. Doling out the cash, however, didn’t match the lofty expectations fans and analysts had for this team. They spent most of the year at the bottom of the conference, and only a late-season surge saved them from being a complete bust.
On top of their struggles, opponents exposed Buffalo’s lack of grit. In the most glaring example, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic bowled over Ryan Miller in open ice, and no one on the Sabres responded.
This offseason, Pegula added that toughness, bringing in the likes of John Scott, Steve Ott. The Sabres also kept Patrick Kaleta, re-signing their in-house enforcer.
There were no changes this season despite the failure to reach the playoffs. Will this be coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier’s last chance to bring the team deep in the playoffs?
With the lockout all but done*, and the framework of the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kick it off today with a look at the Boston Bruins.
The Stanley Cup hangover was alive and well in Beantown last year. After winning the organization’s first championship since the 1971-72 team, the Bruins stumbled out of the gate, finishing with the worst opening month for a defending champion since the playoff format changed in 1994.
That all changed, though, as Boston found its footing. The Bruins finished with a 49-29-4 record, winning the Northeast Division and completing a second straight 40-win, 100-point season. They lost in the quarterfinals, falling in seven games to the Washington Capitals.
The Bruins had the most overseas players during the lockout, and welcome back the likes of Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and a healthy Nathan Horton. But the big question will be in between the pipes, where Tuukka Rask takes over as the team’s number one goalie.
In anticipation of the first round series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils, I’ll take a look back at the previous playoff matchups between the two rivals. Yesterday, I took a look back at the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, which the Devils won, 4-2. Today, I’ll recap the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, where a big hit changed the series and propelled the Devils to their second Stanley Cup championship.
When the regular season ended, Philadelphia sat atop the Atlantic Division, with 105 points. The Devils finished only two points behind the Flyers, meaning the fourth seed in the conference. Six games before the season ended, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to fire coach Rob Ftorek, electing to go with Larry Robinson to coach the team in the postseason. Philadelphia defeated Buffalo and Pittsburgh to reach the finals, and the Devils swept Florida and defeated Toronto. The teams would face each other again for a chance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In the opening game, Martin Brodeur stopped 35 shots, turning in an outstanding performance. Bobby Holik and Petr Sykora scored within a minute of each other in the third period, extending the Devils lead to 4-1. The team would go on to win Game 1 in Philadelphia, mirroring their 1995 opening game performance.
In game two, the Devils jumped out to a 3-2 lead. The series began to look eerily similar to 1995, with the Flyers losing both home games to fall into a 2-0 hole. But Rich Tocchet and Daymond Langkow scored goals in the third period to put the Flyers ahead, 4-2. Brian Boucher looked strong in net, stopping 30 shots and sending the series to the Meadowlands tied, 1-1.
It seemed Tocchet and Langkow turned the series, because game three was all Philadelphia. The Flyers defeated the Devils, 4-2, to take a 2-1 series lead. Game four went the same way, with the Flyers taking advantage of their opportunities. Craig Berube, who hadn’t scored in 86 playoff games, tallied a goal as the Flyers went on to defeat the Devils, 3-1. With the win, they swept the Devils on New Jersey’s home ice and went home to Philadelphia with a decisive 3-1 edge.
Facing elimination, the Devils played well in Philadelphia. The Devils jumped out a lead in the first period on a Jason Arnott goal, and never looked back. Patrik Elias, Bobby Holik and Sykora all scored in a 4-1 defeat over Philadelphia. Down in the series, 3-2, the Devils once again had life. But the odds were still against them. At the time, no team in the expansion era had ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the conference finals. What was worse, Flyers star Eric Lindros, who had missed several games after two concussions, was cleared to return to action.
Game six began as a scoreless battle, with each team unable to light the lamp for the first 51 minutes of the game. The Devils drew first blood, with playoff hero Claude Lemieux providing the spark. Lemieux stripped Andy Delmore of the puck and worked the puck to Holik. Holik put a shot on net, and Lemieux put home the rebound for his 80th playoff goal. Even a Lindros goal couldn’t help the Flyers, as the Devils defeated their rivals, 3-1, and evened the series at three apiece and forcing a game seven.
The Devils got out to a quick lead, 1-0, in game seven. Then, Scott Stevens gave every Devils fan something to remember:
It would have been easy for the Flyers to fold, especially after a crushing hit like that. But they continued to battle, and Tocchet tied the game at one with a goal in the second period. As had happened all postseason long, the Devils big players stepped up. In the third period, Alexander Mogilny took the puck and put a shot on net. Elias, who drove the net, beat Boucher on the rebound for the series-clinching goal, and the Devils would complete the comeback.
Here’s the Elias goal:
And here’s the celebration:
After completing the comeback, the Devils moved on and faced the Dallas Stars in the finals. The Devils prevailed in six games, winning their second Stanley Cup championships. Stevens, who many believe sparked the Devils championship run with his hit, was awarded the Conn Smythe award.